Oxford starts school year with community service

Daniel Christian •

students after packing food kits for Giving Hands Food Pantry

Through the Ignite Oxford pre-orientation program and Orientation Week, students joined in community service work that benefited eight Newton County organizations.

Amid the flurry of Orientation Week activities, Oxford students carved out time to give back to the community by participating in service work across Newton County. 

First-years who were part of the Ignite Pre-Orientation program—along with their second-year Ignite Leadership Mentors—worked with eight community partners to benefit groups in the area, including: Newton Trails, the City of Oxford Sustainability Committee, the Newton County Library System, Giving Hands Food Pantry, Family Promise of NewRock, Flint Hill Elementary School, Piedmont Newton Hospital, and Longleaf Hospice.

students packing food kits

Photo courtesy of Alice Seo

“Connecting with the community through service and volunteerism is a core component of our Oxford College students’ academic experience,” said Director of Community Relations Laura Gafnea. “I’m glad that our students can get plugged in right away and learn about our amazing community partners through the Ignite Oxford and Orientation programs.”

One such partner was the Giving Hands Food Pantry. Ignite students cleaned and stocked shelves to help prepare the pantry for food distribution. The following week, during New Student Day of Service, a group of first-years packed 100 food kits for children later distributed by Giving Hands.

Each kit included breakfast, snack, and complete meal items.

“It was a great learning experience for our students,” said Megan Hulgan, assistant director of Student Involvement, Leadership, & Transitions. “We had originally planned to work at the Oxford College Farm and Best Friend’s Farm, but due to high temperatures and humidity, we had to pivot to indoor service activities. The students who had signed up for the two farm events joined together to pack food kits, and then we held an advocacy brainstorming session led by our Volunteer Oxford Coordinators.”

students brainstorming service ideas
As part of the brainstorming session, students learned about Oxford’s four community engagement tools: direct service, indirect service, advocacy, and research. They then made advocacy plans about climate change and shared them with each other.

Tsiky Andriamaromanana, a second-year student and Volunteer Oxford Coordinator, enjoyed showing the ropes to new students.

“Being able to introduce the first-year students to Volunteer Oxford during our New Student Day of Service was incredibly exciting,” Andriamaromanana said. “Service is a big part of Oxford, and I’m always happy to welcome new people into our community.”

The Giving Hands Food Pantry is operated by Covington First United Methodist Church, and Director of Food Ministry Emily House enjoyed working with Oxford students: “[They] asked thoughtful questions about what food insecurity in our area looks like, and they learned how their work was positively impacting our neighbors,” she said. 

The impact of Oxford students was felt not just by Giving Hands, but by all the partner organizations. Students will continue to serve the community throughout the semester as part of Volunteer Oxford and other clubs and courses.