Monday, November 23, 2020

More Than a Meal Continues to Serve the Hearts, Souls and Bellies of Oxford

By Asia Harden
Hottytoddy.com intern
acharde1@go.olemiss.edu

Not only is Oxford home to the University of Mississippi, but it is also home to a vibrant community filled with neighbors who feel like family. One of the many organizations that lend a hand to the most vulnerable of the Oxford-Lafayette community is More Than A Meal.

According to the organization’s president, Sarah McLellan, More Than A Meal’s mission is “serving the people of Oxford with good food, encouragement, and a sense of community. A warm meal, fellowship, tutoring for children, toiletries, and much more.”

More Than A Meal is a local organization that has been serving meals to the people of Oxford since 2009. In the past, they have also hosted events like eye screenings, health checks, and financial planning. With over 10 years of establishment, this organization is no stranger to the community and has made an impact on the lives of many.

Volunteers at More Than A Meal serving a hot meal to guests. File photo.

The organization also sponsors other enjoyable community events. One of McLellan’s favorite projects includes last year’s Spring Festival.

“The kids hunted Easter Eggs and it was a fun event,” said McLellan. “We also had men and women hair cuts along with manicures. It was a fun night for everyone.”

Recently, the organization has been especially helpful during this time of crisis.

“During COVID-19, we have continued to serve the community with curbside meals and toiletries… We have served 80-150 every Tuesday night,” said McLellan. “Seeing the cars lined up an hour before serving time, has been hard. It shows that our community is in need right now and we hope that the small part that we are doing is helping in some way.”

McLellan herself is a native of Caruthersville, Missouri but certainly bought into the Oxford-Lafayette community as a graduate of the university. Along with serving in her fifth year on the board for More Than a Meal, McLellan is also the Executive Director of the Lafayette County Literacy Council and a teacher for the OUUMC Discovery Day School.

While all members of the board for More Than A Meal share a greater amount of responsibility than other volunteers, as the president, McLellan is tasked with keeping the team organized and focused whether that’s through monthly meetings or the day-to-day activities of the organization.

For McLellan, as well as the others involved in More Than A Meal, serving the community has woven itself into the core of who they are.

“Our board members feel that giving back to the Oxford-Lafayette community is among the most important and valuable thing we can do as part of community members,” McLellan said.

Ole Miss student and Director of Volunteers Will Farmer further emphasizes More Than A Meal’s ability to provide a sense of community and belonging through service.

More Than A Meal volunteers from St. Peter’s church serving meals during the pandemic. Photo via Facebook.

“More Than A Meal is a special place not only in regards to its service to at-need families, but also for volunteers to find a place with meaningful contributions in their own lives,” said Farmer. “For those that have been fortunate enough to spend a Tuesday afternoon with us, you know exactly what I am referring to. It’s an enriching environment that gives people a place to open up despite hardships that may be occurring in their own lives.”

Farmer continues to point out not only the positive environment of More Than A Meal but also its ability to help volunteers grow into themselves and the values that they hold dear. In this case, through service, volunteers allow themselves to find connection with a cause that is bigger than themselves.

“I have seen hundreds of new faces come through the door to serve,” he said. “Even those hesitant at first, everyone eventually opens up and finds a role to serve that suits their personality and helps contribute to the overall goal of setting a warm environment for all. The board strives for this purpose as we want to see everyone feeling welcome and present no matter who you are.”

Without question, volunteers enjoy their time spent with More Than A Meal, and the community thanks them for their dedication.

“Anyone that serves at MTAM will tell you that it is a positive experience and they always want to come back,” said McLellan. “It will change you. You become more aware of others and less aware of yourself.”

McLellan includes herself in this narrative as well. She says that joining the board of More Than A Meal “was one of the best things I have ever done.”

To learn more information about More Than A Meal, please follow this link.