By Kurt Brummett
Executive Director United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County
“While we often think we are immune to difficulties others face, no one knows what tomorrow will bring.”
When I wrote that sentence a few weeks ago, I most assuredly did not expect tomorrow would bring what we have recently experienced, which has offered immunity to no one as businesses close by the day, people practice social distancing, and many self-quarantine. At a time we all struggle with knowing what to do, especially as many we know lose their livelihood, one common refrain heard throughout the LOU community is, “How can I help?”
My first response is to listen and follow the instructions given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi State Department of Health, medical providers, and other professionals.
While misinformation abounds, seek guidance only from those who have the requisite knowledge and experience to make informed statements and decisions regarding COVID-19. Please be discerning as passing along inaccurate information in this instance can jeopardize lives rather than simply reputations.
From a local nonprofit perspective, I believe I speak for everyone when I say the impact of COVID-19 is something we have never experienced and hope to never go through again.
The wide-ranging impacts from a health, safety, and economic perspective are momentous and extend far beyond the individual as well as collective capacities of our local organizations, whose resources were already unable to fully address the LOU community’s growing needs. The extensive needs emanating from COVID-19 only add to the disparities as more and more people require assistance.
With that being, what can you do?
Give. Help. Share. Advocate. Publicize.
When you do so, utilize existing organizations, systems, and networks that have been developed and improved over time to address significant needs. Interfaith Compassion Ministry, The Pantry, Oxford Community Market, Oxford LovePacks, Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi, More Than a Meal, United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County, and numerous other organizations have been in existence for years to help Lafayette County residents in need. They simply need additional assistance now. So, once again, be discerning as you donate to ensure your generous support goes toward your desired purpose.
While the needs in our community seem like thousands of growing Goliaths, you can provide stones to the many Davids who can help take them down. I know this is a time when many are unable or hesitant to give due to our tremendous economic uncertainty. Such feelings are understandable and reasonable. However, I encourage everyone to help however they can, which does not have to involve donations.
Share accurate information on available resources through social media and in conversation. Advocate for local nonprofit organizations that you believe in at a time they need such support now more than ever. Publicize the significant needs throughout the LOU community and how people are stepping up to respond. As stated above, listen and follow the guidance provided by experts to reduce your and others’ risk of spreading COVID-19. The key is to help rather than harm.
It is important to note that while the volume and scope of need has significantly increased in recent days, the vast majority of needs related to COVID-19 are not new to the LOU community. People requiring assistance with rent, utilities, food, and shelter is not a novel occurrence and that is why nonprofit organizations within our community exist and many have helped meet such needs for years if not decades.
So, while we do not know what tomorrow brings, we do know that we can make it better by working together. Let us all do our part even as we are socially apart.
For those seeking information regarding the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County and its program partners, please visit our website.