Osburns make giving back a family affair

Published 6:47 pm Sunday, November 12, 2017

When it comes to community service, Tom and Donna Osburn make an effective team.

Together, they are active members of the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club, involved with the Boy Scout programs in Warren County and the Boy Scouts’ Andrew Jackson Council in Jackson, volunteer with the United Way and on Sundays Donna plays guitar and their son James plays drums in the choir at St. Michael Catholic Church.

The Osburns met at International Paper, where they were both employed. Tom came to Vicksburg in 1980, Donna in 1984, but they really didn’t get fully involved in the community until 1992, when Donna received an invitation to join the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club and referred it to Tom.

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“Fred Peyton, who was a member, invited Donna, but Donna knew that in college I had been involved in Circle K, which is the college version of Key Club,” Tom said. “Donna wasn’t as interested then, so the invite went to me and I got involved.

“Two years after joining Kiwanis, I was asked to head the chili feast. I had no idea what I was doing. We put together something for the chili feast. I have no idea how much money we raised, probably a couple of hundred bucks the first year. Now, we’ve been doing it 25 years, and we raise about $10,000 a year.”

About the same time, he took over the club newsletter, at first mailing it to members, then moving to email, which now reaches 125 people.

Donna joined Kiwanis in 1996, when Tom was president.

“We’ve been very active in that since,” she said.

The reason, they said, is the opportunity to serve and to help young people.

“I very much like doing the hands-on services that help children or are for children directly,” Donna said. Both said they enjoy watching the Key Club members sponsored by the club develop as people.

“That’s always neat,” Donna added. “You see them coming up and coming to our meetings for lunch when they were in high school and then come back and join the club as a working member in Vicksburg.”

Their involvement in the Boy Scouts began in 1996, when James, their oldest son, became a Tiger Cub.

“I wanted James to be in the scouts,” Tom said. But because he was working nights at the time, he had Donna take James to school night. “She called me at the mill and said I was the new Tiger Cub den leader.”

He said the thrill of watching the Cub Scouts learn and grow through the Scouts influenced him to remain as Cub Master for several more years after his son advanced in Scouting. Donna got involved with the Boy Scouts because Tom’s meetings and James’ meetings were on the same night. Early on, however, she wanted to stay away from Scouting.

“When he was a Tiger Cub, I went on our first campout with him,” she said. “We had a brand new tent, we had brand new sleeping bags, we had brand new everything, because we had never been camping as a family or anything like that, and it rained the whole weekend.

“I was never so miserable in my life. I told Tom I wasn’t doing anything connected with Scouts again. That was his job as the dad.”

But after she began taking James to his meetings, she decided to become a Scout leader. She has remained active with Scouting in Warren County, and handles adult leader training for the Andrew Jackson Council.

She said she enjoys watching the Scouts advance and grow, becoming Eagle Scouts and getting the opportunity to learn the leadership and people skills that scouting provides.

Now, she said, she loves camping and going with the Scouts on camping and adventure trips.

“So what was a very miserable experience has become a much more pleasurable experience. I have been able to do all sorts of adventures with my boys that we would not have done as a family,” she said. “It’s been a great experience to learn to scuba dive and go on whitewater rafting expeditions, climbing expeditions and things like that; it’s been fun.”

Their continued involvement in Scouting still has a personal influence. Their son David has followed his older brother into Scouting.

Boy Scouts is far from the only way they give back, though.

“We do a lot of volunteering with United Way,” Donna said, adding the couple were at Vicksburg Family Development for a recent workday, and worked at Central Mississippi Prevention Services during United Way of West Central Mississippi’s Day of Caring.

They also donate to United Way. “We believe heavily in their mission and what they do,” Donna said.

During the summer, she said, Vicksburg Kiwanis had a signature project working with the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library for its summer reading program.

“We read to children, did Duct Tape challenges, marshmallow challenges; were the manpower to help with the summer reading program. We paid for the magician to be there, and held a hot dog party at the closing session for the event. There were 325 children participating and we were glad we were able to help with the program,” Donna said.

Both of them said their families were the inspiration for community service.

“Ever since I was a little girl, volunteering was always a part of life,” Donna said. “That was how my parents raised me. We always were involved in the church and in the community so when I moved to Vicksburg it was natural to become involved in the church and the community.

“It’s critical if you have skills to give back. When we’re so blessed, we must give back for those blessings. If we can help less fortunate people by our service, that’s what we ought to do.”

“My folks didn’t have much money, but they were very involved in the church and whatever projects the church had going,” Tom said. “We were always involved. I guess in some ways we were recipients of gifts.”

“It’s just natural for us to do it together,” Donna said.

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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