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VolunteerOxford: Tweeting with a bigger meaning

 

During the day, business and language major Evan Morrison seems like a normal graduate student. He gets up at 7 a.m. to walk his puppy. After breakfast, he either rushes to work at his father’s seafood shop or goes to work with Ole Miss First as a graduate assistant. He then attends class from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in an attempt to finish his master’s degree in May. The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to meetings with the Associated Student Body and the Graduate Student Council.

Although his schedule is active, people might catch Morrison on his phone every now and then doing his most important job yet: tweeting.

These tweets, however, are of a different breed from the average post. He announces events like “Still time to donate to Leap Frog! New or gently used books for 1st and 2nd graders to read!” or “Staff Council is collecting soda tabs to benefit Ronald McDonald’s house!” 

Morrison promotes volunteer opportunities, which do not receive a lot of publicity, through his Twitter account @VolunteerOxford. He said his mission is to improve the city of Oxford and Lafayette County and to get Ole Miss students more involved.

Morrison said he developed a deep passion for volunteering during his undergraduate years at the University of Tennessee. His fraternity and Habitat House raised $50,000 together to build a house for a homeless family of four.

“Seeing the children of the family we built the home for tell their mother how excited they were to have their first bedroom was one of my happiest moments in my life,” he said.

Morrison witnessed the devastation the tornadoes left behind when he moved to Oxford this past May. Seeing the wreckage sparked a desire to do something and on Aug. 1, 2011, Volunteer Oxford began to embrace the South’s biggest concepts: hospitality and lending a helping hand in times of need.

“I thought that if I gained 1,000 followers, that would mean 1,000 students getting volunteer information and helping their community,” he said.

Morrison said he believes students should see farther than just the pretty buildings of the university and the fun times on the Square. Students are a big part of the population in Oxford, thus leaving a big footprint in the city.

“Simple things such as picking up trash while walking the dog could make a big impact on the community,” Morrison said. “Ole Miss has the most beautiful campus in the states. Why can’t the community be the same way?”

Less than a year old, Volunteer Oxford is now getting optimistic feedback. Every campus organization is connected to the site, and the followers have tripled in the spring semester.

“Twitter is a good form of social media because it is similar to text messaging,” said executive director of Leap Frog Teresa Adams. “People are stuck to their computers and phones, so it is a more effective way to get the word out.”

Volunteer Oxford has also boosted the number of volunteers helping with Leap Frog.

“Last semester, we only had one individual volunteer through Volunteer Oxford,” said assistant director of Leap Frog Kathryn Shirley. “Now, we have a few more people through them. Students come to college looking for something to do, and volunteering is another way to do it.”

Leap Frog is not the only organization gaining numbers due to publicity on Volunteer Oxford. Katherine Russell, a volunteer for Feed The Hunger, received many emails asking about the Pack-A-Thon event last Friday, thanks to Twitter.

“This is great because we just started, and we want people to know that this is not a Greek thing,” Russell said.

Another initiative for the Volunteer Oxford Twitter site is to allow the city to become more student-run, such as having a student coach an Oxford Little League team.

“I think it will be really great,” Russell said. “People do not realize that there is so much other stuff they can do off campus that can help a little community like Oxford.” 

The future of Volunteer Oxford will not end when Morrison leaves in May. Handing down Volunteer Oxford to someone with a big heart for the community is something really important to him.

“It’s easy taking life for granted because in the U.S. we’re afforded so many things,” he said. “But there is a big difference between people that live life thinking there are only ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ instead of thinking there are ‘haves’ and ‘soon-to-haves.’”

If any organization in the university, Oxford or Lafayette County area would like to connect to Morrison’s Twitter, please tweet either @VolunteerOxford or hashtag #VolunteerOxford.