St. Al seniors put service over self into practice

Published 12:03 pm Friday, January 22, 2016

For the senior theology class at St. Aloysius, service over self is more than a motto; it’s part of their education.

“The students are required to give eight hours every nine weeks toward volunteer service, whether it’s to the community, their church, school or another public service agency,” said teacher Joan Thornton. “From the ninth grade through their senior year, this class has contributed 7,500 hours of community service.”

That service involves many activities, whether participating in Vicksburg Catholic Schools’ food donations to food pantries, volunteering at Good Shepherd Community Center, participating in missions over the summer or during spring breaks, or helping fill sandbags for the city Vicksburg to help protect the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Depot on Levee Street. And all the students said their work gives them a good feeling knowing they’ve been able to help someone.

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“As a class, we go to Good Shepherd and play with the children and help the teachers,” said Grace Burnett. “Some of the older kids we help tutor, but with the younger kids we play with them. It helps free up the teachers and allows them to get caught up.”

Playing with the younger children, she said, “lets them know there are other people who care about them outside of their family.”

Elizabeth Counts said many of the seniors have worked with Crawford United Methodist Church’s Service Over Self Program, where teens assisted by adults help remodel, repair and improve homes in the city’s lower income neighborhoods.

“We spend the week at the church,” she said. “We work in different houses. I’ve tarred a roof and helped build a house and a deck.”

She said working with the program helps her better appreciate what she has, adding, “I like helping the people and making friends with the families we help.”

Cass Hudson, who has also worked with Service Over Self, recalled putting in a floor at one house.

“I feel good helping the people who need it. I like giving back.”

Hudson was also a counselor at the Junior Auxiliary’s Camp Silver Cloud for special needs children at Warner Tully. “It was great to give these children a chance to get outdoors and play,” she said.

Taylor DeRossette recalled a mission trip to Honduras, “where I helped build a house. We went to three different villages and built houses.”

“It makes you appreciate what you have,” he said. “Even if you don’t have much, whether you go to private school or public school, it’s more that what these people had. Their schools had no air conditioning or doors or windows. I was glad to be able to help them.”

Catherine Smith remembered a mission trip she took to the Dominican Republic “where we put a roof on a church. The church had no furniture. They had a guy with a guitar who provided music. He would come in and just sit on the floor.”

She said the group she was with also went to small areas called batys, “Where people lived in homes made of sticks.” She said the group brought items like T-shirts to the residents.

“Some people complain about their homes, but those people had no home, just a place made of sticks,” she said.

Lofton Varner volunteered to support cyclists for MS150, a fundraiser where people ride bicycles across the state to raise money for multiple sclerosis, as they went through Warren County.

Justin Goodwin participated in the TOPS Soccer Program to teach special needs children soccer. Under the program, instructors meet with the children one day a week for six weeks four 1 1/2 hours.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I enjoyed teaching the kids and watching them being able to get out and “run wild” for a while. It felt good.”

“A lot of us have talked about the big things, but there are a lot of small things that we do, like things here at school and at church,” said Katie Martin, who said she helps at her church and sometimes serves as an acolyte during services.

“We also give canned goods for the food pantry, donating duffle bags for the Warren County Children’s Center and toys for heart patients.”

Samantha Kelly said some of the students belong to organizations like the Rebeletts and SubDebs, which help with contributions to the Salvation Army’s Angle Tree program and Operation Shoebox, which provides necessities to soldiers station overseas and at home.

Katherine Brock is a member of Cody With Christ, which raises money for different charities and has a program to provide socks to the homeless.

Addison Mathis spent time with the Wounded Warrior Program talking with homeless veterans, and meeting older veterans as the Collins Veterans Home near Hattiesburg.

She said the younger veterans were reluctant to talk about their experiences of problems. One, she said, talked about a friend who was severely wounded.

“He said he could not go see him because is brought back his PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome),” she said, while World War II veteran from Normandy was very open when she visited him.

“He was 94 years old and it was his birthday,” she said.

Christie Johnson said she went on mission trips with First Baptist Church and another church to Houston, Texas and Indianapolis.

In Houston, she said the group worked in a Hispanic community delivering meals on wheels.

“It was like being in another world. Most of the people we visited didn’t speak a word of English, so he had to communicate with what Spanish we knew.”

In Indianapolis, the group did outreach, visiting people and asking if they could pray for them.

“Some of the people were surprised when we asked,” she said. “One woman cried when we asked. All she wanted was someone she could talk to.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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