Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Ways to Help…Love Local – Visit Oxford

The following update on ways to help is provided by Visit Oxford:

Oxford, MS- March 2020, Visit Oxford has set up a page on its website highlighting
ways that the local community—and beyond—can support Oxford merchants during the
COVID-19 crisis.

In response to the pandemic, the local tourism office has shifted its priorities from marketing Oxford as a tourist destination to coordinating efforts that will help those tourist attractions when they need it the most. Visitors to Oxford spent $177.3 million
last year and tourism is one of the largest sectors of employment in Oxford and Lafayette County supporting 2,260 jobs, or 8.6% of the total jobs in our community.

“We are committed to promoting efforts that will help our tourism partners and their employees during and after the COVID-19 crisis. We depend on them to make Oxford a destination that is special and now they need our support more than ever.” Kinney Ferris Executive Director, Visit Oxford.  While everyone is working from home and practicing social distancing, the question remains: “How can I help?” There are ways to show your support from the comfort of your laptop or smartphone. All of these ideas and more information can be found on the Visit Oxford website by clicking the banner at the top of the homepage, “How to Support
Oxford During COVID-19.”

The hashtag and idea seem simple: Love your local purveyors. But, for many, the problems they face are complex, and the need for your help is dire. Supporting local restaurants or retailers may make the difference in protecting an hourly employee from being laid off or ensuring a utility bill can be paid in full. Those that continue to feed us also need to eat. By ordering a meal with no-contact delivery or making a call to Square Books for a specific book to be picked up curbside, you can do your part—and every little bit helps. A list of restaurants and retailers that are offering curbside or delivery services can be found in the COVID-19 resource page on the Visit Oxford website.

Gift Certificates
USA Today created a website for people around the world to support their local merchants. The website, titled “Support Local,” acts as a database for local businesses to link their website with the option to buy a gift card online. Purchasing a gift card gives the merchant a cash infusion now—when they may desperately need it—for future purchases when the world feels a little more normal and people can enter the merchant’s front doors again.

Tip Roulette
Visit Oxford has signed on with a website that allows consumers to virtually “tip” local bartenders, servers, hostesses and similar workers. The site, serviceindustry.tips, started in Chattanooga, Tenn. as a way to help local hospitality workers, but it quickly grew as more and more cities wanted to get on board. There have been more than 55,000 donations nationwide since its inception. If you are able to contribute, click on the Oxford, MS page at serviceindustry.tips for the opportunity to tip a local hospitality worker with their name and place of employment. You can virtually tip them directly using Venmo or Cash App. The website doesn’t charge a fee, nor does it collect any personal data. The website suggests tipping the first worker that shows up, so everyone gets a turn. Or you can refresh the page to see another name. So far, there are more than 100 hospitality workers in Oxford listed on the site. If you are a local hospitality worker and want to sign up, simply select Oxford, MS as your city, then fill out a simple form to be added to the list.

United Way-LOU COVID-19 Relief Fund
The United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County (UWOLC) has established a COVID-19 fund to help provide short-term relief to individuals and families living in Lafayette County who have been affected by a loss of wages due to COVID-19. The contributions received through the fund will be granted to a nonprofit organization that will provide direct assistance to those impacted on a case-by-case basis. “Lafayette County residents in need receive assistance from local nonprofit organizations on a daily basis,” said UWOLC Executive Director Kurt Brummett. “Our goal is for the COVID-19 fund to supplement existing resources at a time when needs within the LOU community grow at an unprecedented rate.” Donations to the fund can be made online at unitedwayoxfordms.org/covid19, or checks can be mailed to UWOLC, 440 N. Lamar Blvd, Ste 5, Oxford, MS, 38655. Make sure to include COVID-19 in the check memo.

For more information on any of these efforts or other ways to help, please go to the Visit Oxford website at visitoxfordms.com. Updates can also be found on social media by following Visit Oxford on all social platforms using the handle @visitoxfordms. The City
of Oxford will be continuing to update on social media, as well; follow them @cityofoxford on Twitter and Facebook and @cityofoxfordmississippi on Instagram.

Visit Oxford is the City of Oxford’s marketing organization, whose purpose is to bring visitors to Oxford for the economic benefit of the community.

Media contact: Kinney Ferris, Executive Director, Visit Oxford MS, kinney@visitoxfordms.com, 662-401-6264