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Serving Other Souls

Increasing empathy and decreasing apathy

 in our members through service to the needy

 
89 SOS Members posing for 2013 - 2014 yearbook photo                         Video of SOS receiving Service Award from Mayor of Murrysville
Click here to view an article on SOS published in the Post Gazette on 2/6/14 that speaks to the qualities of SOS
Click here to view our IRS 501c3 tax-exempt acceptance letter we received on June 11, 2014
 

SOS events closed for 2013 - 2014 school year.  We look forward to another amazing year of helping the needy in 2014-2015.

Due to prior commitments and obligations, SOS will NOT conduct the 2014 Miles of Smiles 5K.  SOS plans to bring the MOS 5K bigger and better than ever in 2015.

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Serving Other Souls Mission Statement

Serving Other Souls (SOS) is an IRS certified 501c3 tax-exempt non-profit.  SOS is a servant-leadership group built to create leaders through service based initiatives.  The members of SOS are students of Franklin Regional Middle School who are dedicated to helping individuals with great need.  SOS members can offer their time, talent, or treasure to SOS service projects that aim to improve the lives of those who need support.

The overall goal of SOS is to increase empathy and decrease apathy in all SOS members as we serve those souls who need assistance.

Click here to view an article on SOS published in the Post Gazette on 2/6/14 that speaks to these qualities of SOS

This website is full of powerful, hopefully life-changing, life-affirming events.  The 10 minute video below is a perfect example of what Serving Other Souls is about.  Emily O. (Far left side in 2nd video below) wanted to offer her hair to Wigs For Kids, a non-profit to help kids who lose their hair due to illness or medical treatment.  With the assistance of SOS, she devised a plan to not only donate her hair, but raise an additional $441 from business and student donations to accompany her hair donation.  Watch the video and understand a little bit better what we are all about.


Here is a under 3 minute video of Emily explaining why she is offering her hair to Wigs for Kids

Here is the 10 minute video of Emily and four others cutting their hair to raise funds and empathy for children stricken with cancer.
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The Birth of Serving Other Souls


The founding opportunity for S.O.S. came in the wake of the tornadoes that damaged or destroyed many homes and schools in the Hempfield School District and the Japanese tsunami in the Spring of 2011.  Castle house students collaborated together to create in-school and out-of-school service projects.  2 teams of students traveled to the Westmoreland Co. Salvation Army to help stock supplies and organize donations to be handed out to families affected by the tornado.  The remaining Castle students (back at FRMS) made origami cranes to donate to an organization that would send $ to Japan for every crane created and mailed. The students read a story about the important tradition the crane plays in the Japanese culture.  The students at school also made Japanese bookmarks that signify faith, hope, and love.

The 2011 Japanese tsunami caused destruction and death on a level unparallel in modern times.  Out of every bad event, goodness can arise. This event marked the birthplace of an idea.  An idea of inspiring kids to serve those in need to make the kids better human beings and serve those in distress. Serving Other Souls became this idea.

The 2011 Hempfield Tornado caused terrible damage right in our back yard.  Out of every bad event, goodness can arise. This event marked the birthplace of an idea.  An idea of inspiring kids to serve those in need to make the kids better human beings & serve those in distress. Serving Other Souls became this idea.

Castle House students in Spring 2011 begin to load donations onto a bus.  The school bus, donated by Myers Busing Company, takes the donations and the kids to the Westmoreland Salvation Army Headquarters in Greensburg, PA.  Immediately after the Hempfield tornado, donations were in serious need for those affected by the storm.  These kids were the first unofficial members of Serving Other Souls.  S.O.S. was officially organized in October 2011.

Castle House students in Spring 2011 begin to load donations onto a bus.  The school bus, donated by Myers Busing Company, takes the donations and the kids to the Westmoreland Salvation Army Headquarters in Greensburg, PA.  Immediately after the Hempfield tornado, donations were in serious need for those affected by the storm.  These kids were the first unofficial members of Serving Other Souls.  S.O.S. was officially organized in October 2011.

At the Westmoreland Salvation Army, students organized food donations for families affected by the Hempfield tornado.

At the Westmoreland Salvation Army, students organized food donations for families affected by the Hempfield tornado.

Students had to re-organize all the food donations and build a plan how to stock the food pantry.  These kids, many of who never had the chance to serve others in their lives, did an amazing job when they were placed in leadership opportunities while at the Salvation army.

Students had to re-organize all the clothing donations and build a plan how to stock the food pantry.  These kids, many of who never had the chance to serve others in their lives, did an amazing job when they were placed in leadership opportunities while at the Salvation army.

Thousand origami cranes (千羽鶴 Senbazuru?) is a group of one thousand origami papercranes (鶴 tsuru) held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.  Students who did not attend the Salvation Army events created cranes.  A Seattle-based company was offering a dollar for each crane mailed to them up to 1 million dollars.  We mailed these cranes so to help in the aid send to Japan tsunami relief.

These bookmarks were created to reinforce that when other are in need, good folks have to help them strengthen their confidence, hope, and love.  By using the Japanese letting, the students tried to connect, to empathize with, those affected by the tsunami in Japan.

This true story is of a girl, Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima at the time of theatomic bombing by the United States. She developed leukemia from the radiation and spent her time in a nursing home creating origami (folded paper) cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would then be granted a wish. Her wish was simply to live. However, she managed to fold only 644 cranes before she became too weak to fold any more, and died shortly after. Her friends and family helped finish her dream by folding the rest of the cranes, which were buried with Sadako. They also built a statue of Sadako holding a giant golden origami crane in Hiroshima Peace Park.  Franklin Regional students who read this text hopefully gained empathy to connect to those in the tsunami and make the cranes and bookmarks to help them.

These are the 50 Castle students who won the lottery conducted to decide which students could attend the Hempfield Relief Activity over 2 days at the Westmoreland County Salvation Army.  47 of the 50 students stated in their post event interviews that they had never had the opportunity to serve others due to their busy schedules and lives.  All the students expressed a sincere appreciation for the opportunity to help others.  Their responses in the post event interviews are what formed the genesis of an idea that a service group should be started to address this need, that group became Serving Other Souls.
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S.O.S. Executive Board Contact Info
Contact Information Email: servingothersouls@gmail.com

Phone: 724.327.5456 X 2201
Emergency only: 412.496.8994
6th Grade SOS Leadership Team
 Zack L., Nicole C., Morgan C., and Caitlin W. were elected by the 6th grade SOS members
7th Grade SOS Leadership Team
Annie T., Halen L., Brooke B., Brian C., and Danilo P. were elected by the 7th grade SOS members
8th Grade SOS Leadership Team
Katie K., Kenna G., Hailey P., and Payton S. (Lauren T. not in pic). were elected by the 8th grade SOS members
Board of Directors of Serving Other Souls pic of board members pending
Christopher Cooley (director), Shannon Gazze (board member), Matthew Olszewski (board member)
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Serving Other Souls Core Events

Serving Other Souls, based in Franklin Regional Middle School, in Murrysville, PA creates specific events based on the needs of the souls that within our reach within the greater Pittsburgh area. Many of these events will occur once to help meet the temporary need of the souls we chose to help.  However, SOS Core Events are annual events that we do every year since the need in the areas that we serve are always present, and we will conduct these Core Events as long as we have the resources and manpower to complete the tasks of the Core Events.  The Core Events are listed below with a link to pictures of the event and a basic synopsis of the event.

SOS Thanksgiving Food Drive SOS Homeless Clothing Drive
SOS Miles of Smiles 5K SOS Relay for Life Fundraiser
SOS Ronald McDonald House Trip SOS Soul in Crisis Spotlight
SOS Backpack Program
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SOS Backpack Program

SOS is proud to announce that we are working to create a food pantry & clothing inventory to support the some of the neediest students of FRMS.  The food will be distributed using the same “Backpack Program” that is offered at Heritage Elementary School.  The program offers a backpack full of food to needy FRMS students & family on a bi-monthly basis (2nd & 4th Fridays of the month).  The clothing items will be added to bags on “as needed” basis.

The items listed below are needed to create a food and clothing inventory that will fill our food and clothing pantry and provide the goods that are placed in the backpacks twice a month.  Please consider making a donation today with one, many or all of these items, and please remember future donations to keep our pantry stocked and capable of serving the needy of FRMS. Please drop off your donations at the front office with label of “Backpack Program” on the donation bag.

Click the link below to sign up on our Volunteer website that you will be donating to the SOS Backpack program.

Volunteer link:  http://vols.pt/aUF8aT

Click here to see images of our pantry that we set up in spring of 2013.

Bread, fruit, and veggies will be bought fresh bi-monthly by SOS.  Please consider a financial donation to SOS to help us offset cost of the bread, fruit, and veggies.  Make checks out to:  Serving Other Souls

Backpack Program Item

Cost Point

 (items worth $14 per bag)

 

Diabetic Backpack Item

Backpacks (to carry food inconspicuously)

$10 to $15 (we need 30 to 40)

 

Backpacks (to carry food)

1 jar of peanut butter

$3.89 per jar

 

1 jar low sugar peanut butter

1 jar of jelly

$2.29 per jar

 

1 jar of low sugar jelly

1 can of soup

$1.50 per jar

 

1 can pasta

1 pack of raman noodles

$6.19 per 6 packs ($1.03 each)

 

1 pack raman noodles

1 can pasta

$1.25 per can

 

2 mac & cheese

2 microwavable packages (cups) of mac and cheese

$3.19 per 6 pouches ($0.53 each pouch/$1.29 per cup)

 

2 juice boxes (100% juice only)

2 juice boxes

$3.29 per 10 boxes ($0.33 each)

 

2 natural or low sugar apple sauce

1 apple sauce

$2 per 6 pack ($0.33 each)

 

1 fruit cup in 100% juice

1 fruit cup

$2.50 per 4 cups ($0.63 each)

 

1 sugar free pudding or jello

1 pudding or jello

$1.25 per 4 pack ($0.31 each)

 

1 peanut butter cracker

1 peanut butter cracker or snack cracker

$2.99 per 8 pack ($0.37 each)

 

1 low sugar cereal

1 fruit snack

$2.19 per 10 pack ($0.22 each)

 

2 low sugar granola bars

1 single serve cereal box or Pop Tart

$4.29 per 8 mini boxes/$3.29 per 6 packs($0.55 each)

 

2 sugar free oatmeals packs

2 granola bars

$3.25 per 8 bars ($0.41 each)

 

1 loaf of bread

2 packs of instant oatmeal

$2.69 per 10 packs ($0.27 each)

 

4 pieces of fruit or veggies

1 loaf of bread

(SOS will buy fresh)

 

 

4 pieces of fruit or veggies

(SOS will buy fresh)

 

 

Clothing Donations: Please only donate clothing in sizes that MIDDLE SCHOOL AGE KIDS can wear.

Donation sizes are as follows (Kid medium (10-12), Kid large sizes (12-16); adult small, medium, large)

New male t-shirts  

New female t-shirts

New or gently used male sweat pants)

New or gently used female yoga pants

New or gently used male belts (various sizes)

New female hair bands

New or gently used male blue jeans

New or gently used female jeans

New male zipped hoodies

New female zipped hoodies

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S.O.S. Documents
S.O.S. Contract/Contact Paperwork S.O.S. Event Paperwork
Each school year, S.O.S. members or new members must fill out :

S.O.S. Rules and Contract
(all members must complete)
S.O.S. Contact Info Sheet


New members or members without a shirt should complete:

S.O.S. T-Shirt Order Form


(all members must complete)
Thanksgiving Food Drive Info
and Donation Sheet
Homeless Clothing Drive and Gift Giving Event
 
S.O.S. Permission Slips
 
Christmas Caroling at Senior Center Permission Slip
Clothing for the Homeless Field Trip Permission Slip
MLK Service Day - Habitat for Humanity Permission Slip
Ronald McDonald House Dinner for Field Trip Permission Slip
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p
  • Serving Other Souls' Cel.ly Signup
    Cel.ly is an app that allows SOS members, parents, and supporters to sign up to receive text messages from SOS.  These text messages will be informational in regards to need in our community or information about upcoming SOS events.  Once cel.ly members receive text messages, they can sign into the SOS Helping Calendar to sign up for available volunteer positions set up within the calendar app.  Follow the one of the two methods below in order to sign up for SOS Cel.ly service:
How to Sign up for Celly:

If your can not send 3rd party texts

Web address – cel.ly

1.  Click the sign up/login button on the bottom of the page.

2.  On the right hand side, create a user name/password.

Make user name FirstNameLastName (no spaces)... ChrisCooley

3.  You must enter your cell phone and email for Celly to work with what

     we are using it for.

4.  Once you’ve entered your cell phone information, Celly will send you a

     verification text. Please follow the text instructions. After you follow the

     instructions, your phone will have been verified. You still have not

     joined the Serving Other Souls.

5.  On the web page, it asks you right away to join a cell group. Type in

     “@sosinfo” into the field provided without the quotations.  Click join.

      You still have not joined the group.

6.  Once you’ve typed that in, Celly will take you to our group page. You

     will see all the past messages from me. In the top right of the page,

     you will see a tab that says “join @sosinfo” Click on that. At this

     point it will send your information over to me to approve you to join

     the group. Once I’ve accepted you to the group, Celly will send you

     a notification text.

7.  At this point (after notification text, you will start receiving alert texts

     from Serving Other Souls!

If your can send 3rd party texts:

Cel.ly uses the 3rd party access code to send texts to 23559

This 5 digit # is entered as the phone number but it acts as code

in apps such as cel.ly.  If your phone can send texts like this, follow the

following simple directions to sign up to receive SOS text blasts:


1. Type 23559 in field where you usually type the phone number

2. In the text message box, type:

@SOSinfo

and click send

3.  You should be prompted in text message to enter username.  YOU MUST create a username that is FirstNameLastName without spaces and the click send

4. You will be prompted to select the type of communication you would prefer to receive when SOS sends text blasts.  Please select choice D (SMS texts) so you receive the text blasts in real time.


5. SOS will be sent your application to join, and if name is valid, we will admit you, and from that point, you will receive text blasts
 
Spotlight: A Soul in Crisis

Welcome to a often unused section of our SOS page! Here you will find a spotlight with a particular soul in need (may or may not be anonymous) and why SOS felt compelled to assist in anyway possible to help bring peace, joy, and relief to souls such as these.  Previous Souls in Crisis include Sunny Carney, Kristin Croyle, and Lorri Nixon who were spotlighted in the Miles of Smiles 5K portion of site.  If you would like SOS to consider a Soul in Crisis for our SOS Spotlight, please contact SOS to discuss.  From our experience, we will generally stick with causes that can benefit multiple individuals, but if there is a true need, SOS needs to know about it so we can find a way, large or small, to make a difference in that soul's life.

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Date of Spotlight 2 : 8/12/13 until further notice

Our current soul in need: Mike Fraser
Warrior Spirit truly defines Mike Fraser. In early July 2013, Mike was severely injured in a swimming accident.  He sustained a cervical spinal cord injury at C4 and C5 that could potentially render him paralyzed from the waist down.  After several surgeries, Mike was transferred to Health South, Harmarville where engaged in intensive rehab therapy.  During the week of August 12th, 2013, Mike was moved to a rehab facility in Atlanta, GA that is better suited to help Mike on his road to recovery.  Mike's attitude and determination to walk again have helped him through the past few weeks, but the path to recovery may be a long one. Serving Other Souls is proud to assist Mike in his recovery.  If you would like to make a donation to Mike, you can click the images above to be taken his website, www.warriormike.com, and make a donation via the paypal link. Alternatively, Serving Other Souls is accepting checks made out to Serving Other Souls. We will issue your agency a receipt for your donation to verify the donation for tax purposes, and SOS will cut a check a check in the amount of your donation plus an additional donation to Mike Fraser's Benefit Fund c/o PNC Bank.  Please contact SOS if you are interested in making a donation to Mike as he fights like a warrior to walk again.
 

Make checks out to Serving Other Souls and in memo of check write Mike Fraser Benefit Fund.
 
Our mailing address:
Franklin Regional Middle School
Attn: Serving Other Souls
4660 Old William Penn Highway
Murrysville, PA 15668

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Date of Spotlight 1: 1/5/13 to 1/31/13
Our soul in need is a woman around 40 years of age and is living in the eastern suburbs. She recently approached SOS to share her sincere need for help.  Over multiple conversations covering many days, the following life events unfolded to SOS in this woman's life as a backdrop to the need in this person's life.

  • This woman is a single mother of an autistic child  who is a teenager
  • She has severe auto-immune disease that makes her sick and weak on a daily basis and requires expensive drugs.
  • She lost her job recently (Oct-Nov) due to her sickness and inability to work.
  • She is now behind in many of her bills and has no income coming in.
  • She could never apply for SSI due to her disability because she had to keep working to pay for her medicine and the rent to keep her son's life as normal as possible. (SSI requirements unemployment and takes 3-4 months to process.)
  • She is now applying for SSI but it will take 3-4 months for it to process through all the red tape.
  • She is becoming more sick as well since she can not afford the medicine.
  • Auto-immune disease and/or the medication taken for the disease can lead to an increased chance of growths of cancer. In November 2012, a doctor told her that she needed to get to Magee hospital for pathology tests when the lady showed the doc a lump on her breast.
  • She became so depressed over all these heartaches to bear that she never acted on the advice of the doctor and over Christmas break, a second lump on her chest showed up.
  • This woman was physically and sexually abused as a young child by her father and was forced into foster care at age of 6. She bounced around in several foster families before ending up with a foster family in the region.
  • Her foster parents adopted her but she did not feel loved in the home and emancipated herself when she turned 18.
  • Her entire family was separated by the abuse and she has no contact with her siblings, original parents, or adoptive foster parents.

Due to three generous benefactors, SOS was able to generate $1100 for this Soul in Crisis over the Christmas break.  The $1100 purchased a few gifts for her son for Christmas and paid for a month of previously owed back-rent.  After the multiple conversations referenced above, SOS determined that the need for this woman exceeded our means to act alone as an organization to help her.  Therefore, SOS is attempting to help generate funds to help this soul in need cover her monthly expenses and past due bills for the next three to four months (from January through March or April 2013).  This time period is required for the red-tape and processing of the SSI (Social Security Disability) application that would permanently protect this woman and her son from financial distress.  SOS is seeking to generate between at least $7598.71 (3 months of expenses plus past due bills) and and at least $9156.96 (4 months of expenses plus past due bills). Click here to see a copy of her month to month expenses and past due bills. If you can assist in anyway large or small to this situation, please complete the donation form listed above and enclose the donation form and check made out to "Serving Other Souls".  Pleased include in the memo of check: "Soul in Crisis Donation".  Thank you.

Date Name of Donor Amount of Donation Total Amount Donated towards 3-4 month goal
12/22/12 Mrs. P $800 $800.00
12/22/12 Anonymous $250 $1,050.00
12/22/12 Mrs. C $50 $1,100.00
1/12/13 Mary Helen H. $30 (two separate
donations of $10 & $20)
$1,130.00
1/16/13 Mrs. C $100 $1,230.00
1/16/13 Anonymous $500 $1,730.00
1/25/13 Knights of Columbus
Council 4925 (Monroeville, PA)
$250 $1,980.00
2/1/13 Anonymous $75 $2,055.00
2/1/13 Mr. & Mrs. V $20 $2,075.00
2/7/13 Mr. & Mrs. M $25 $2,100.00
2/8/13 Lorri Nixon $25 $2,125.00
This ends the donations for our soul in need Spotlight #1.  Thank you to our donors who helped provide this lady and her creditors with $2,125.  This money and the steps SOS helped her with will allow her hopefully to transition from this crisis state in her life to a period of stability.  Thank you!!

Update (2/9/13)

Our soul in crisis had her initial SSDI interview that will start her on the path towards Social Security Disability payments that will allow her live as normal a life with her ailments as possible.  She is now receiving a monthly SSI check from the government for her disabled son to help with medical and physical needs.  She qualified for food stamps and received her Access card recently.  She recently paid down some of the back rent owed to the landlord and with the assistance of SOS. Additionally, SOS worked with the landlord to create a deal that allows our soul's unfiled tax returns for last few years in which she will receive refunds upon to repay the past rent and pay for some of the upcoming future rent. Our soul in need and the landlord visited H&R Block to deal with the taxes and acquire the tax refunds.  H&R Block wanted $300 per year for a three year return of $900 in fees.  SOS has decided to help defray costs by using Turbo Tax to file for the last three years and the landlord will receive a copy of the tax statements.  Even though our window of exposure has ended with this soul in need, SOS hopes to sit down with her tax paperwork and file all three years using Turbo Tax in the next week or two.  This deal will allow our soul in need to stay in her home and not force her into a housing situation that would have worsened her story.  With all of these improvements in her life, SOS would like to thank those who reached out to make a difference in this soul's life.  Your generous donations made a huge impact to her and her son's quality of life.  Thank you!!

 

Update (1/16/13)

Our soul in crisis poses anonymously with her son holding her most recent donation of $600.  As of 1/16/13, SOS helped her set up a SSDI appt at the Monroeville SSDI office for 2/1/13.  SOS also helped her get to her doctor's appt. where she was tested for the lumps on her chest for cancer.  The tests as of now have come back benign.  SOS has set her up with resources from Catholic Charities which can offer physical, financial, and emotional support to get through this crisis.  With this recent $600 donation, she was able to pay for her car payment that was just about to go to collections; pay for an overdue bill from an online pharmacy that she was receiving medicine from; and hopefully pay a portion of her overdue rent.  Her landlord has been flexible, but she has not paid rent in sometime, and it is becoming apparent, we may have to help her acquire an housing option that offers more financial options if an agreement with the landlord can not be met.

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