Andrew Grant, For The Miami Student

Students Ashley Charles, Courtney Frydryk, Shawnee Waters, and Claire Cawley volunteer at the Oxford Community Choice Pantry. (Lauren Hutchison | The Miami Student)

It’s that time of year again, the season of giving and in Oxford it’s the season of giving back. All over Oxford non-profit organizations and student organizations are volunteering their time and energy to help the community.

The Oxford Community Choice Pantry is set up like a small grocery store where disadvantaged residents of the Talawanda School District can shop. Mike Johnson, Director of the Oxford Community Choice Pantry, said that the support from the local community has been tremendous over the years.

“The pantry has been in Oxford for six years and helps out around 300 households in the area,” Johnson said. “We work closely with the Office of Community Engagement and Service in order to provide volunteer opportunities to Miami University students.”

Johnson said that the pantry is always looking for more food donations and volunteers.

“Some foods that we collect include cereal, peanut butter, canned fruit and tuna and spaghetti,” Johnson said. “Student volunteers usually help out with assisting the shoppers and the upkeep of the store.”

The local churches provide many ways of giving back to the community as well. Jeffery Silver, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, said many of the churches in the area support the Oxford Community Choice Food Pantry in addition to the volunteer opportunities offered through their organizations.

“One program we have is the ‘Giving Tree’ program where we ask people to purchase and wrap specific gifts from a list on an ornament on our tree in order to give to families in need of help during the holidays,” Silver said.

Volunteers with St. Mary’s Catholic Church also participate in is the BackPack Program where volunteers’ donations provide a pack of food to Talawanda school children in need.

The Oxford Bible Fellowship is also helping during this holiday season. Yvonne Van Bibber, administrative assistant of the Oxford Bible Fellowship, said there are many other opportunities for students and volunteers to get active during the holiday season.

“Through the Angel Tree program, volunteers can purchase gifts for one or more of the 140 children involved or deliver gifts to the families in Oxford,” Van Bibber said.

Miami University has many student organizations, such as Navigators, that are already involved in the various volunteer programs for the Oxford Bible Fellowship according to Van Bibber.

Student organizations are also very involved with volunteering. Alpha Phi Omega (AphiO) is a campus service fraternity where its members volunteer their free time helping people and organizations around Miami’s campus, Oxford and Cincinnati.

Junior Megan Ollier, vice-president of campus service for AphiO, said they host of specific holiday-themed projects such as the Holiday Market at the Oxford Senior Center. Volunteers help set up as well and run the event while seniors sell crafts and gifts for the holidays. Ollier also said they help to sell Christmas trees with Caracole of Cincinnati which provides housing and support for people affected by HIV/AIDS.

Senior Miranda Wood, president of AphiO, said the group also helps out with Butler County projects as well during the holidays.

“Each semester, our chapter votes on philanthropies for us to focus our service efforts on causes and organizations that our chapter cares about,” Wood said. “Butler County Children’s Services is an organization that we have great relationships with and this year we accepting donations of non-perishable foods and toys for them.”

Some other service groups in the area are Oxfam, where volunteers help people all over the world overcome poverty and injustice. Another is Habitat for Humanity which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating poverty and homelessness through volunteering.

There are many opportunities for students and volunteers alike to go out and improve the Oxford community by donating their time, energy, food and other needed items to make someone’s holiday brighter.

Oxford Community Choice Pantry is located at 400 W. Withrow St. and for more information about how to volunteer visit www.oxchoicepantry.org or call (513) 523-3831.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church is located at 111 E. High St. and for more information call (513) 523-2153. The Oxford Bible Fellowship can be contacted at (513) 523-5300 or visit www.obf.org for information.

To find more information about Miami University’s Alpha Phi Omega chapter visit http://muhub.collegiatelink.net/ organization/alphaphiomega.

To find out more information about other student volunteer opportunities visit The Office of Community Engagement and Service’s website http://www.units.muohio.edu/servicelearning/.

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