Selfless service defines Eastern Shore organization

By Allison Marlow
Posted 2/15/18

Surrounded by the pageantry of the Mobile Carnival Museum, the women of S.E.L.F. take a moment to dine, fellowship and re-connect.

It’s a rare instance of stillness for the group of 90 women …

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Selfless service defines Eastern Shore organization

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Surrounded by the pageantry of the Mobile Carnival Museum, the women of S.E.L.F. take a moment to dine, fellowship and re-connect.

It’s a rare instance of stillness for the group of 90 women who can normally be found bustling about Baldwin County serving young and old alike. Together they perform thousands of community service hours each year, more than 11,000 hours in 2016 alone.

S.E.L.F. is an acronym for Service, Education, Leadership and Fellowship. The organization was founded in 2014 by 12 women who knew communities grow and thrive only through the efforts of local citizens.

As a member of S.E.L.F. the women commit to 50 hours of community service each year. Members may pick from a long list of community service organizations that come to S.E.L.F. seeking volunteers or work with their favorite local cause.

“There are so many deserving organizations that need volunteers,” said Pam Todd of Daphne. “This group is a format to help women find that place that needs help.”

And for S.E.L.F. members, volunteering, Todd said, is something they all would have done anyways. Each member is often already a dedicated volunteer when they join. The group is also a great place for new residents to become involved in the community. Many of the women balance their volunteer commitments with full time jobs.

Members are also required to attend two meetings a year, held as a means to share ideas and fellowship with like-minded civil servants.

“We don’t necessarily see each other unless we get together,” said Carolyn Phillips. “This is our time to reconnect.”

Two of the group’s signature events serve area schools.

Project Self-Serve, started in 2013, partners with an area school and is a twofold mission. First, the ladies provide the school with a “cloakroom” to provide for students who have lost coats and hats. The space also provides extra uniforms for children who soil their clothes during the day and for families who cannot afford uniform pieces.

The second part of the project helps to promote self-esteem among students. Teachers pick a goal for their students and S.E.L.F. provides small incentives for those students who meet their goals. The program has been run at J. Larry Newton School in Fairhope, Magnolia Springs and this year at Silverhill Elementary.

At Silverhill Elementary, parents have begun joining S.E.L.F for the award days, a new addition to the growing tradition.

“It’s been kind of heartwarming to see everyone gather for this,” said Vicki Riggs, chairwoman of Project Self-Serve.

S.E.L.F. also sponsors an annual scholarship program to honor female teens who have committed to volunteer service during high school. Applicants must attend Daphne, Spanish Fort or Fairhope high schools and write an essay telling how volunteering has touched their life.

Updates on the 2018 scholarship deadlines can be found on the S.E.L.F. website.

The organization is careful to rotate the programs through the different schools and provide as many volunteers as possible to organizations that make requests.

“We like to spread our love around,” Riggs said.