A Project Serve for the History Books

Rivers Brunson News

MOBILE, Ala. – At University of Mobile, community service is part of the culture. Students regularly use Focus Fridays to volunteer locally, and spend fall and spring breaks traveling to inner cities across the nation to partner with churches. When a natural disaster occurs, students are eager to support recovery efforts with manpower, donations and prayers.

There is one day annually where the Christian university’s assorted service efforts unite to blanket the Mobile, Alabama, area in good deeds. Project Serve is a day when 1,000 red-shirted image-bearers of Christ clean, organize, paint, teach and serve wherever their help is needed.

“It’s an opportunity to continue our mission,” university president Dr. Tim Smith said. “Students get to go out every Friday to serve their community, but this is an opportunity for us to all go out together to fulfill our Great Commission calling.”

On October 19, 2018, Project Serve began with an opening rally on the front steps of Weaver Hall featuring a rousing selection by RamCorps, a prayer and commission by Dr. Smith, and a group photo. Then the sea of red shirts dispersed, carpooling to about 60 locations around the area. Students and professors from the Department of Natural Sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences drove less than two miles to Evangel Christian School, where they taught elementary students about astronomy and chemistry. The Office for Student Life staff and a team of students got creative, painting murals at Seals Community Center.

Students and faculty from the School of Health and Sports Science arrived at Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery early on Friday morning and began to unload lawncare equipment. They looked around at the overgrown yard, and spotted a few barely-visible graves featuring small tattered American flags. They knew they had their work cut out for them.

They attacked the weeds strategically and diligently. They paused only to hydrate or to marvel at the headstones they exposed. One, hand-carved – dozens, forgotten.

Local photojournalist Fran Barber was there to coordinate and document. “So far, we have found 700 veteran graves here, and we guess there’s probably 2,000 total,” she said, while UM students used mowers and weed-eaters behind her. “This cemetery is 22 acres, and there are parts we can’t even access yet.”

She went on to relay the history of the graveyard. During World War II, black war heroes were not allowed to be buried in some established cemeteries. The parcel of land was donated to these heroes and their families, and the community established this non-perpetual cemetery. The area began to fill, and with the land ownership rights in limbo, the grass and weeds took over.

As volunteers from University of Mobile worked, Barber followed them to document the graves that they uncovered. “These heroes served our country, and then they were just forgotten,” she said. “You all will be able to tell your children about this.

“You’re a part of history now.”


About University of Mobile

University of Mobile is a Christ-centered liberal arts and sciences institution with a vision of higher education for a higher purpose, founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions through rigorous academic preparation and spiritual transformation. Core values are: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted and Distinctively-Driven. The university offers on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in over 90 areas of study. Founded in 1961, University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.

For more information about University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.edu or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.


About the Author
Rivers Brunson

Rivers Brunson

Rivers is an experienced writer and an alumna of University of Mobile. She graduated in 2015 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication. She returned to University of Mobile professionally as marketing communications specialist in 2017. She also hosts a podcast with Bellum Creative Group called Due South about Southern arts and culture. A Grove Hill, Alabama native, Rivers fell in love with the city of Mobile as an undergraduate student and now calls it home; however she takes frequent trips to see her family who are NAMB church planters in Livingston, Montana. She has a lovable golden retriever named Cooper.