Service Over Self begins 31st year in Vicksburg area

Published 4:00 am Sunday, June 18, 2023

Service Over Self, Crawford Street United Methodist Church’s annual outreach community service ministry, returns Sunday for its 31st year.

Service Over Self is a program designed to use volunteers to help others have a better life by having a better, safer place to live. The program is held each summer and pairs teen volunteers who work with adults to upgrade homes in the Vicksburg area.

Bob Moss, one of the SOS coordinators said the annual program, which begins on Father’s Day and goes for one week, usually involves 60 to 100 teenagers — many who are members of local churches.

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“There’s kids from all over town, and as a church and as a Christian-inspired ministry, we ask them which church that they say they belong or attend or are willing to put their name next to. And we usually run 10 to 14 churches represented.
And while he is not sure yet how many local teens will participate, a total of 35 teens from Starkville First United Methodist Church and from Hattiesburg are coming to participate in the ministry.

“They start showing up and checking in Sunday night, and we have a covered dish supper where people from the church bring food and then we have a commissioning service,” Moss said. “We have a speaker and sing a few songs and talk to them about the program.”

The 7 p.m. commissioning service in the Crawford Street sanctuary, he said, is open to the public.

The teens begin working Monday morning. Moss said more than 12 homes have been selected for the program, adding, “We’ll probably handle six, that’s our minimum; and we’ll probably max out at 12. We could go a little higher than the 12. “We have a good little bit of carpentry, remodeling; handicapped ramp building — we’ve got three of those,” Moss said. “I think we’ve got two roof jobs. We’ve got a couple of houses that’ll have a whole lot of activities and places where they’ve had exterior doors that were not operable and they blocked them off and we’re going to try to fix them so they’re operable again.”

Other homes, he said, will involve work like fixing weak floors in the house, fixing leaks and patching roofs.

“To me, the value in this activity is three-pronged,” Moss said. “I mean, there’s the kids that participate, the homeowners that are benefiting and the work and the adults that aid us and help put it on; the adults that work on the job sites with the kids.

“I don’t think any group gets more benefit than the others, to be honest with you. And you know, the homeowners are getting a great benefit. But those other two groups really get a lot though.”

Service Over Self began at Crawford Street in the 1990s after Moss and Randy Stroud took 20 teenagers to Memphis, Tenn., to participate in a similar program. Crawford Street has been the program sponsor since the program began, and initially, the program involved teens from the church. Teens from other churches joined the program as it expanded.

“We kind of took the idea from a college student-sponsored activity in Memphis that they called it SOS — Service Over Self and they invited kids and we went up there with Crawford Street kids. I went with them in 1991 and 92, and I just said, this is a good idea for Vicksburg,” Moss said.

“We broadened the participation; we could spread out the age a little bit.”

Having a local program, he said allowed the participants to stay at home and remain involved in the program.

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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