A troop more than 1,600 strong will serve Columbia’s nonprofit organizations and needy individuals Saturday for the second annual ForColumbia service event.
Last year, ForColumbia enlisted help from 700 volunteers and 11 Christian churches, according to the project’s website. More than 1,600 volunteers from 34 Christian church partnerships signed up for the event this weekend, ForColumbia Director Shelly Mayer said.
The event is led by individuals from seven churches and is funded by private donors in the congregations. Volunteers sign up through churches, city ministries or as individuals on the ForColumbia website. On Saturday, they will serve 20 Columbia-area nonprofit organizations and dozens of individuals in the First Ward neighborhoods.
Mayer encourages people from all ages to join the effort.
“I think the call to love your neighbor applies to everybody, whether you’re 18 or 50 or 90,” Mayer said. “Mizzou students may come from a new city and may not stay in Columbia, but they’re here now and they’re part of our community right now. So as a part of our community, it would be a great thing for students to take time out of their busy schedules and serve others.”
Although sign-ups are closed online, students who are interested in participating can email UNITE All Campus Worship at email@example.com to get involved.
“We want to help organizations that are out in the community, loving and serving our neighbors all year long,” Mayer said. “So we want to do things for them so that they can do that more effectively.”
One of these organizations is the Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center, which provides equine therapy to children and adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges. Volunteers will help build fences at the 60-acre property and do basic farm chores that are hard for the center’s small staff to get to, founder and executive director Karen Grindler said.
“I think every city in the United States would love to have a ForColumbia event,” said Pam O’Brien, pastoral care director at Christian Fellowship Church. “People have a heart to help, but financial and organizational obstacles can get in the way. This ForColumbia event does that so people who have skills, people who have a heart to serve, can just roll up their sleeves, put on their work gloves, and go do it.”
Karis Church’s lead pastor Kevin Larson said his relatively young congregation has a lot of energy and desire to serve the city. Michael Maw, a member and deacon at Karis, lives in Columbia’s First Ward and will be leading an outreach in his neighborhood. ForColumbia expanded its projects this year to individual care in the First Ward after collaborating with the Office of Neighborhood Services, Mayer said.
The ONS identified the First Ward as harder to live in and in need of resources. According to the West Central Columbia Neighborhood Action Plan, the area’s average household income is slightly lower than Columbia residents as a whole.
Larson said that Christians don’t believe in a complete evacuation of the world (a common misconception), but rather they are called to make the present world better. ForColumbia is an example of this notion.
“It’s an important reminder that we as Christians should be the best possible citizens and should not exist on the outside of the city, as Christians can have a reputation of doing,” Larson said. “I think we should be right in the thick of things.”
Edited by Hailey Stolze | firstname.lastname@example.org