Friday, February 3, 2023

Stronger Together Oxford Offers Opportunities for People to Help

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

Stronger Together Oxford volunteers at the recent OPC Night at the North Pole event. Photo via Facebook

Since April, Stronger Together Oxford has recruited 150 volunteers who have worked about 7,500 hours helping local organizations, businesses and city departments with the programs and events.

The city-run organization has been known by a few different names over the years – Volunteer Oxford, Volunteer Connection and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

However, the city changed the name again in April to Stronger Together Oxford and unlike RSVP, volunteers can be just about any age.

Stronger Together enlists volunteers for nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Club, CASE of North MS, Memory Makers and More than a Meal, as well as the Oxford Community Market, the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, Oxford Park Commission, hospice programs and medical clinics.

“We changed the term from ‘nonprofits’ to community partners because we’re helping anyone who has a need for volunteers,” said Marlee Carpenter, director of Stronger Together.

Carpenter took over officially as the director on Oct. 31, after serving as a recruiter for RSVP for several years under recently retired director Arledia Bennett.

Those interested in volunteering, register on the Stronger Together website and are provided information on volunteer opportunities based on their interests and availability.

Ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign is one way to volunteer this holiday season.

Organizations that are in need of volunteers, whether regularly or for a special event, also register online.

Carpenter said while the organization has more than doubled the number of volunteers in their database, she would like to get more volunteers who are in the 25-35 age range.

“We have lots of students and retired people,” she said. “And we’ve done a good job recruiting more volunteers in that age bracket but we want more of that middle age so we can introduce them to the world of volunteering.”

Carpenter said that age group can be sometimes difficult to recruit due to them having busy lives with children and work.

“We want to make many of our volunteer opportunities more family-friendly,” she said. “We want whole families to come, not just the 30-year-old parent. Bring your significant other and bring your kids.”

Carpenter said there are plenty of family-friendly events and needs where the whole family can help, like ringing the bell for the Salvation Army or the recent Oxford Park Commission’s Night at the North Pole.

Stronger Together recruiter Mary Hannah Meek is a mother of two, 1-year-old twins and understands time can be an issue for young parents.

“I understand it can be hard, but there are ways you can volunteer indirectly,” she said. “I recently did the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and that’s another way you can help. You’re not having to be at this place at a certain time.”

There are no requirements on how often someone has to volunteer or the number of hours they must volunteer.

“We like them to stay engaged with us,” Carpenter said.

Stronger Together not only connects people who wish to volunteer with opportunities, it can also be the eyes of city leaders on the needs inside the community.

“We’re often that first-hand perspective of the needs within the community,” Carpenter said. “And then we can translate those needs back to the Board of Aldermen and offer ways to help meet those needs.”

Future goals include expanding and growing the Stronger Together Recruitment Day in April, developing a program where bigger businesses can “adopt” a nonprofit, and offering training classes for its community partners.

“We’d like to offer classes or provide information on things that can help them with their events,” Carpenter said. “Maybe classes for grant writing, ways to fundraising or volunteer management.”

For more information, call Stronger Together Oxford at 662-232-2377, email volunteer@strongertogetheroxford.com or visit online at http://www.strongertogetheroxford.com.


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