On Thursday, September 3, the Office of Community Engagement was proud to host its first annual Nonprofit Fair to help connect some of our local community partners with university students looking to get engaged. Nine community partners were present, ready and willing to provide opportunities and showcase the work they are doing here in the LOU community. Although it was held virtually, an unfamiliar format for interactive fairs, the Nonprofit Fair went on smoothly. “Of course we would have liked to have seen everybody in person, but for the pandemic, I thought it worked out really well,” says Allen Kerr with the Oxford Relief Fund. “This was amazing,” one student participant said after making his rounds, “I fell in love with almost every organization.” The fair provided an important first step toward a more comprehensive community engagement center at the University of Mississippi, one that will create lasting, impactful relationships between the campus and the local community.
Designed to resemble an in-person fair with organizations at designated booths, each partner was assigned a breakout Zoom room that students could then filter through with the help of the OCE staff in the main Zoom room. Among the community partners present was Teresa Adams, executive director of The Leap Frog Program; Fred Lorenzo, administrative officer for LOU Home, Inc.; Alan Kerr with the Oxford Relief Fund; Kurt Brummett, executive director of the United Way; David Stone, American Red Cross volunteer specialist; Joshua Tucker with the C19 Ambassadors; Stephanie Green, ecologist at Strawberry Plains; Lawrence Muruako with Operation Fit Nation; and Wayne Andrews, executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. As partners, these organizations work with the OCE to foster relationships between the campus community and the Lafayette-Oxford community by providing opportunities for students and on-campus organizations to volunteer their time, talents, and resources. They got to talk to 87 total student participants about their organization’s mission, goals, and current initiatives to hopefully recruit eager student volunteers. Their presence also laid the groundwork for one of the major goals of the OCE to act as a volunteer center for the university. “We can find some ways for you to have an impact and to do some things, even in a very strange and different kind of environment,” says Erin Payseur-Oeth, project manager for OCE. With new developments underway at the OCE to track and connect campus and community partners more efficiently, the Nonprofit Fair was a great first step to creating these connections.
The Nonprofit Fair was also a prime opportunity to introduce our issue area coordinators, a team of students dedicated to fostering positive, beneficial relationships between campus and community partners. Gianna Schuetz, Camesha Johnson, Catherine Long, Jilkiah Bryant, and Madison Alliston will serve as the connection between campus and the local community in their respective areas. Through this work, they will be equipped with up to date information about opportunities to support community partners and will be engaging students through requested initiatives and projects. You can learn more about our team through our ongoing staff introductions or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about opportunities to get engaged.