Summer of service: SOS returns for 31st year

Published 8:39 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

For its 31st summer, more than 70 teens and young adults this year have joined the Crawford Street United Methodist Church’s (CSUMC) Service Over Self (SOS) program, which aims to help restore homes in the Vicksburg area, giving the residents of these homes a safer, cleaner place to live. The program returns every summer, giving Vicksburg youth a chance to give back to their community.

Many of the homeowners benefiting from SOS are elderly or disabled with no other means of repairing their homes. The program exists to help those most in need across the Vicksburg community and to enrich the lives of its volunteers by allowing them to give back to their community. This year, the program began with nine job sites across Vicksburg. Each job site required several youth volunteers and two adult supervisors.

Included in this year’s sites was the home of 85-year-old Rosa Coleman. Overseen by Mark Jefferson, the work to Coleman’s home included enclosing the bottom of the structure and installing a new water line. Youth volunteers working on the repair process dug trenches for the water line, installed support beams, and cut new pieces of wood for the house. Jefferson said he moved to Mississippi from Washington state and jumped right into work with SOS.

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Work to a home on Martha Street included high school senior Cara North, who stayed busy painting gables on the front of the house. North said she traveled from Colorado to participate in the program. The Martha Street home also included work to a back room of the home’s interior, where volunteers explained they had already finished replacing the ceiling and dismantling and removing an old bed, adding the homeowners were bedridden and did not have the means to do the repairs themselves.

A third SOS  project, a house on Bonelli Street, required a larger crew and received a nearly complete overhaul. Volunteers worked to repair floors, paint walls, and replace a staircase leading up to the side of the house. 

The Bonelli Street project was overseen by Vicksburg’s Richard Van Den Akker and required more than a dozen youth volunteers.

Hendrix Eldridge, a student at St. Aloysius, helped work on the home.

“I really like SOS because it’s such an eye-opening experience, and you get to help others, spreading God’s love and doing his work,” Eldridge said.

The SOS program continues to make a significant impact on the Vicksburg community, officials said, providing essential repairs to homes and offering volunteers invaluable life experiences.