Annual community outreach, volunteer program continues in the face of pandemic
One week each summer, adults and youth from across the community provide services to those who could not otherwise repair their homes.
These volunteers have replaced roofs, repaired floors, painted siding and walls, helped with plumbing issues, and in some cases, worked on interior remodels on homes in need of care.
Service Over Self, or SOS as it is most often called, is an outreach ministry that began more than 25 years ago at Crawford Street United Methodist Church.
SOS was started after a group of adults and youth from the church went to Memphis to take part in a week of service work. The next year, in 1993, leaders at Crawford Street decided they wanted to start a similar program in Vicksburg.
The program has grown through the years having anywhere from 40 to 100 youth participate as well as a plethora of adults who volunteer to assist at job sites, chaperone and prepare meals.
In the past, volunteers have spent the week — both day and night — at the church where they were provided meals along with snacks. At night, after everyone has cleaned up and eaten supper, volunteers, along with the adults, participated in activities, which have included swimming, games, and the infamous scavenger hunt.
This year, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS had to be altered.
“This year all we did was just work on job sites, and they were all jobs that were done outside,” Lee Ann Whitley, Crawford Street’s coordinator of missions and JOY ministry, said.
Two months ago, she said, leaders did not even think it would be possible for them to do repair work on homes. But after the state and local shelter-in-place orders were lifted, the group decided they could at least do some outside repairs.
“It was important enough to continue the ministry and we are thankful we had the opportunity to continue the ministry this way,” Whitley said.
This past week, three teams comprised of youth and adults worked on four homes.
“We had a good little team,” Crawford Street member and SOS adult volunteer Thad Pratt said. “We did some roof work and built a handicap ramp at another home.”
Pratt said at another home volunteers replaced gutters and repaired an outside staircase.
Lunch was delivered to the worksite for the teams, Pratt said, and at the end of each day, the group had a short devotional.
Samuel Terrett was one of the nearly 20 youth volunteers who participated in this year’s SOS. This is Terrett’s fourth year to volunteer, he said, and he does it because it helps his community.
“I think helping gives positivity around the community and it just fills your heart with joy to help people who cannot afford housing needs and need help around the house,” he said.
And while Terrett liked participating in this year’s SOS ministry, he said he missed the camaraderie of everyone gathering at the church at the end of the day.
“I missed not being able to stay the night at the church. It was a really good experience to come back to the church at the end of the day and hear what everybody else did at their sites,” he said. “It makes you feel like a family and that everybody is connected.”