Diversity and Community Engagement

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Food Poverty Housing’

OCE Agency Profile – Doors of Hope

Posted on: October 6th, 2020 by elpayseu

Poverty detrimentally impacts individuals through homelessness, food insecurity, and limited access to health care, and according to the U.S. Census, it affects approximately 20% of Mississippians. Fortunately, organizations like Doors of Hope Transition Ministries are working to stop the issue of homelessness and poverty in Lafayette County.

Doors of Hope was created in 2011 with one goal in mind: to help guide and support homeless families and families at risk of becoming homeless throughout the Oxford-Lafayette area. “This organization does everything we can to lift and build individuals up,” says executive director Mary Margaret Andrews. They help lead families toward self-reliance and stability by teaching them life skills through training, mentoring, and supportive housing. 

Currently, Doors of Hope has established two major programs to support families: a shelter where homeless families can live and learn for up to six months rent-free as well as financial counseling services for at-risk families, teaching individuals how to budget, pay their rent and utilities, and learn skills to get out and stay out of debt. 

While COVID-19 has greatly impacted Lafayette County, Doors of Hope has been a key player in helping individuals in our community. Since March, Doors of Hope has helped 75 families pay their rent and utilities. “Because of the high housing prices in Oxford, there is a homeless problem here, and, unfortunately, people do not see it,” says Gabrielle Rush, vista worker and volunteer for Doors of Hope, “More individuals than you would think have a difficult time sustaining a place to live.”

Students can also make a huge difference in curbing the homeless population in Lafayette County. Since they are a nonprofit organization, Doors of Hope depends entirely on donations from businesses, churches, and community members to meet their clients’ needs.  Throughout the year, Doors of Hope hosts several donation drives, and they need students to host fundraisers and create social media campaigns to benefit the homeless population.

They also host donation drives and fundraisers like their Wreaths of Hope auction and raffle during the holiday season  to help ensure all families have something to celebrate and eat over the holidays.

 As Gabrielle says, “It doesn’t take a huge event to change someone’s life, a helping hand or a simple donation can go a long way.”

To learn more please reach out to our student coordinator Madison Alliston at mallisto@go.olemiss.edu or go to the Doors of Hope website at doors of hope oxford.org.


Madison Alliston Headshot

Madison Alliston

Meet Madison Alliston – OCE Area Coordinator for Food, Housing, and Poverty

Posted on: September 17th, 2020 by elpayseu
Madison Alliston Headshot

Madison Alliston

“Hi, everyone! My name is Madison Alliston, and I am a junior from Hattiesburg, Miss. majoring in Public Policy Leadership and minoring in Philosophy and Criminal Justice. I’ve always had a passion for helping and serving others. That’s why after I graduate, I plan to attend law school and eventually work and advocate for vulnerable populations. I am super excited to join the Community Engagement team as the Food Security/Food Pantries, Housing, and Poverty Area Coordinator.

To me, the best part of the LOU community is meeting and making connections with others. Learning about other individuals’ cultures, views, and backgrounds has not only changed my perspective about the world but has helped me learn more about myself and my values. This community has taught me the importance of leadership, communication, and diversity and has given me opportunities to become a problem-solver and learn the necessary steps to make a difference in the world.

Community engagement is important to me because I have a passion for advocating and serving others.  Both my parents work in the disability community serving individuals with disabilities and their families. My parents have given me the opportunity to see firsthand the importance of everyone having a voice and a chance to tell his or her story. Building relationships and forming connections with all people in our communities are necessary tools to improve our world.

One thing I have learned recently is the importance of being grateful. I’m so grateful that my family has stayed safe and healthy during this pandemic. I’m grateful for the heartfelt conversations and the memories I’ve shared with my friends during these last few months. I’m grateful for the doctors and nurses who go to work each day and serve others. COVID 19 has given me time to focus on all the positives in my life and to not take anything for granted. Life is short and we need to appreciate each day and make it the best one yet.

If I could have one superpower it would be the ability to shapeshift. This one superpower has endless possibilities. I could turn into a dolphin and explore the deep seas. I could turn into a bird and fly through the sky. Or I could even turn into Taylor Swift and become a popstar for a day. Regardless of this power, I always return to being the best me I can be.”


This semester, Madison will be working with local organizations like More Than A Meal, Doors of Hope, and Oxford Community Market to ensure that everyone in the LOU community has access to basic needs like food and shelter. If you would like to get involved with the organizations in this area, please contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu to get connected to Madison.

Community Chat – John Kohne, The Pantry

Posted on: August 19th, 2020 by elpayseu

“There’s a need, and I want to foster that need.” -John Kohne

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by John Kohne from The Pantry to discuss the ever present need of supplemental food in the LOU community. John discusses the processes and needs of The Pantry that provides some of this supplement to those in need. Tune in to learn more about The Pantry and what they’re doing to alleviate food insecurity here in Lafayette County.

Growing up in a Catholic church in St. Louis, Missouri, John Kohne gained a heart for community involvement early on in his childhood. After retiring from the Navy and working as a FedEx pilot, he moved to Oxford to be close to family where he quickly got plugged into the community through his church congregation. He began volunteering with The Pantry in 2012 and quickly fell into the process.

Run mostly by church congregations, The Pantry operates through two processes: screening and shopping. The screening process determines exactly what the needs are of individual clients, and then they are able to walk through and shop for what they need. In order to dignify the process, clients are able to actually walk through with a cart and shop for what they need instead of simply providing them with a box of predetermined goods. John harps on the compassion shown by everyone involved in running The Pantry. “This is a caring community,” John says. He is thankful, as well, to university students who come and are always excited to help and make a difference in the community.

The greatest rewards, according to John, come from seeing how the members of the community can work together to ease the burden of food insecurity and from coming in contact with people who have the same heart for service as he does. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed how these processes unfold. Churches must mitigate how they distribute food. Also, the food they receive from Mid-South Food Network and the MS Food Network begins to dwindle shortly into the year, especially considering how the pandemic has increased food insecurity. While The Pantry will accept food donations, John cautions community members in how they collect this food. He suggests following safety protocols  by collecting from your own pantry and not organizing a large food drive. You can still help while also keeping yourself and others safe.

The Pantry operates once a month, two days out of the week. To get involved, contact them at (662)832-8001. Also, be sure to watch this episode on our Facebook, Youtube, or on your favorite podcast provider.

Community Chat – Alonzo Hilliard, Interfaith Compassion Ministry

Posted on: August 19th, 2020 by elpayseu

“This community has been a really great community, and it just keeps getting better.” -Alonzo Hilliard

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Alonzo Hilliard with Interfaith Compassion Ministry (ICM). He discusses the mission and work of the organization as well as the need for affordable housing in Lafayette County. Tune in to learn more about what ICM does and how you can help push their mission forward in assisting those most in need in the LOU community.

Born and raised in Lynchburg, Mississippi, Alonzo attended the University of Mississippi, moved out to Texas, and finally came back to Lafayette County where he lives with his wife. He has 4 children and 10 grandchildren whom he adores. And while he recognizes how fortunate he is to have his basic needs met, he realizes that there is a large population in our community that does not have the same fortune. That is why he started volunteering with ICM about 5 years ago. “It’s great to give back,” Alonzo says. He wanted to work to ensure that everyone in the LOU community can live comfortably and affordably on a fixed income.

ICM assists those in our community who cannot have their needs met on their own income. Their services include transportation, temporary housing, utilities, counseling, and even school supplies and children’s clothing. ICM strives to help at least 10 families a day by providing these services by screening clients and assessing their needs individually. Over 30 church congregations contribute to this work through donations and volunteer time, but Alonzo says that there is always a need for donations and urges the community to contact them or donate through the United Way.

Along with the work he is doing at ICM, Alonzo is also actively involved in organizations that integrate ex-offenders back into society and in affordable housing investment groups. He discusses the great need for affordable housing in Lafayette County, especially to those on a fixed income. “This community has been a really great community, and it just keeps getting better,” Alonzo says. He goes on to thank the community for all the support it has given to ICM over the past 20 years.

If you would like to learn more about Interfaith Compassion Ministry, you can visit their page on the United Way website or contact them at (662)281-1002. You can also watch or listen to this episode on Community Engagement’s Facebook page, Youtube channel, or on your favorite podcast provider.


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