By Kaylynn Steen
The Oxford community launched into action following the recent Jackson water crisis that left many residents without water.
Oxford Community Market, a local nonprofit organization that addresses issues of food scarcity and insecurity in addition to hosting a weekly farmer’s market, held a water drive, expanding the idea of what community truly means for this organization.
Brianna McCollum, Vista Service Member for OXCM said, “We can always use more building of community, so this is a really good way to build networks from Oxford to Jackson…the market is one place that can reach beyond borders to really bond us all together.”
McCollum, a Jackson native, has personal motivations to help with the crisis
“I feel like nothing is more of a motivator than living through it yourself. For instance, going home and seeing my family and having seen what they have to deal with. It’s just the little things that you would never even think of. Water is just so integral in our lives,” she said.
OXCM is familiar with responding to crises throughout the state as the organization helped collect supplies for Hurricane Ida in Aug 2021.
“We feel like it’s important always to leverage our organizational capacity to make a difference in people’s lives,” OXCM director Betsy Chapman said.
“We’ve got a big group of vendors, volunteers, and customers who gather every week, so this is a perfect place to help with the collection process.”
OXCM is working locally with East St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church for the distribution of the donated water.
“We are relying on their connections with the faith community in Jackson to get whatever water we collect,” Chapman said.
East St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Rickey Scott praised how phenomenal the partnership has been with OXCM.
“When I became pastor of East St. Missionary Baptist Church, I was looking for someone in the community that I can partner with and [Chapman] has just been incredibly awesome in doing things in the community,” he said.
Scott, along with a team of other churches in Oxford, delivered a load of donations to Jackson. They distributed water to the RECH foundation that works with formerly incarcerated individuals and the Rose of Jackson, a senior living facility.
Scott emphasized the sense of urgency around community responses as people try to meet the basic, essential need of water.
“We didn’t have time to eat, meet, and greet,” Scott said. “We had to get water down there, so we collected over 300 cases of water within a 24-hour period to take down to the community.”
Witnessing firsthand the impact of the water crisis gave Scott a greater sense of the community’s suffering.
“To see brown water coming out of a faucet, to see people running down the street just to get one bottle of water, not just the case … I think we are being blindsided by not seeing all that is really going on in the city of Jackson,” he said.
While the urgency of the crisis hasn’t yet abated, the long-term impact that residents will be facing as the city and state work to fix the issues with Jackson’s water system is already being felt. Water pressure has been restored, but still remains unsafe to drink. Scott and his partners will return to
Jackson with another 150 cases of water, and will continue to bring donations to Jackson on a monthly basis.
The city of Oxford has held recent donation drives at the Oxford Fire Department and the Oxford Activity Center.
“We pride ourselves on taking care of ourselves, but also being able to do anything we can to help the surrounding areas, all the way from the Tennessee border to the Gulf Coast,” said Oxford Fire Department Chief Joey Gardner. “Anytime we can do something to help other people out in the state,
we are more than willing to do it.”