Veterans will be warm and cozy this holiday season as The Exchange Club prepares to take lap blankets to the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford on Thursday.
“We will distribute all 150 of them to every one of the residents,” said Margaret King, president of the Mississippi District Exchange. “Santa Claus will be with us. And that’s just one example of our Americanism projects.”
Although the Exchange Club Family Center’s mission is to break the cycle of child abuse through prevention and educational services, Oxonians of all ages have benefitted from the programs and projects club members have created.
Another Americanism project the Exchange Club provides is Valentines for Vets, which also gets the younger crowd involved.
“We donate cardstock to the Boys and Girls Club, our youth,” King said. “And they make valentines for all 150 veterans.”
Six months out of the year (October through March), high school students even have a chance to earn some extra cash through the Exchange Club. Each month, the nonprofit organization invites a student from both Lafayette High School and Oxford High School to be honored as Student of the Month.
Selected by their school counselors, students are then nominated by the Exchange Club, making them eligible to enter an essay competition. If they win at the local level, the reward is $100. Students could win $1,000 at the state-level competition and $10,000 at the national level.
King is proud of the success of both the Americanism and youth projects, but she says most people don’t know enough about her organization’s community service projects.
“We provide Christmas for several residents,” King said. “We also do Firefighter of the Year, one from the City of Oxford and the other one from the Lafayette County Fire Department. Every October we celebrate them.”
The Exchange Club also hosts monthly lunches with local police officers at which one person nominated by the Oxford Police Department is named Police Officer of the Month.
“We do a lot in the community that I don’t think people realize,” King said. “We have a lot of different projects that we’re involved in, and we have very successful fundraisers throughout the year. And we spend the money on these projects.”
Aside from projects, the Exchange Club also offers programs, funded by United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County, to the community. The top programs, according to Exchange Club Executive Director Fred Johnson, are To Love a Child (TLC), which educates teen parents by encouraging them to continue their career paths, and Correcting our Past and Establishing Skills (COPES), which educates teens and their parents on how committing crime can affect their lives.
The newest program is Stop The Abuse Now (STAN), which reflects the Exchange Club’s mission of encouraging children to speak out about abuse.
“Our goal is to try to make Stan (the program’s mascot) a national figure, just like Barney or the Crime Dog,” Johnson said. “Stan goes to the schools, he goes to the daycare centers, and he has three focuses: one is to say no; No. 2 is to get away; and No. 3 is tell somebody.”
Johnson said his No. 1 goal is to be sure Oxford knows the Exchange Club is here and the many ways they can provide assistance.
“We’re just trying to make people aware of what abuse is and what we can do to help it,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we close the door and don’t want anybody in our closet … We want them to [speak out] now.”
For those interested in becoming a member of the Exchange Club or getting more information about projects and programs, contact Margaret King at 662-832-7546 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Randall Haley, associate editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached by emailing email@example.com.HERE!