By Shelly Mayer
ForColumbia 2019 Coordinator
One thing Christians have in common, no matter what denomination we are a part of, is the belief that having been saved by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, our hearts are changed such that we want to live differently. God’s Word calls us to be salt and light to those around us (Matthew 5:13-16). While we are called to live in a way that isn’t necessarily “of this world,” we are still encouraged to be “in this world” by having an impact in the lives of others, to be a blessing to the community in which we live, seeking the good of the city where we have been called to put down roots and the people we call our neighbors (Jeremiah 29:7).
Today’s blog is the second of three updates on the work that was accomplished through #ForColumbia2019.
As I mentioned in my first post on Friday, we look for opportunities to serve our city in three distinct categories: We wants to serve individuals, we want to serve in common areas within our city that will benefit our community in general, and we want to serve non-profit organizations who are actively at work in the lives of Columbians all through the year. Today’s post highlights the ways in which we served our city.
- Columbia Public Schools: We sent more than 275 volunteers into four public schools in Columbia. ForColumbia volunteers built shelves, organized spaces and did a ton of painting at West Middle and Hickman High Schools; we repaired raised bed gardens and planted fruit trees at Douglass High School; and we repaired and relocated greenhouses and installed pavers and outdoor seating at Benton Elementary. We pulled weeds, picked up trash, removed huge piles of brush and yard waste from all four school properties and spread mountains of mulch around trees and newly-planted flowers. It was a joy to serve alongside teachers, staff and students that wanted to join us in the effort to love our city’s schools, partnering in this effort to benefit our community through the work at multiple public schools.
- Columbia Housing Authority: We served for the fourth year in a row in six distinct areas of Columbia’s low-income housing. ForColumbia volunteers kicked off our weekend by hosting Friday evening bingo parties for the residents of Oak and Paquin Towers, low-income residential apartment complexes for the elderly and/or disabled in our community. On Saturday, over 200 volunteers returned to the two towers to clean the general areas, build shelves, clean out gardens and prepare them for spring planting, plant new flowers, clean apartments, do laundry and pray with residents who welcomed that. We also offered haircuts and crafting opportunities at Paquin for the residents. In four other areas of public housing, another 80 volunteers hosted Plant Days – an opportunity for residents to pot flowers to take home for themselves – cleaned homes and a food pantry in the public housing area.
- Columbia City Parks: For the second year, ForColumbia partnered with Columbia Parks and Recreation to send volunteers into multiple city parks and provide assistance with needed projects. Nearly 120 volunteers were assigned to serve at Cosmopolitan and Douglass Parks, and at the Forum Nature Trail – painting benches and fencing, clearing honeysuckle, spreading mulch and cleaning up the park areas in general.
- Tabernacle of Grace Ministry and Demaret Neighborhood BBQs: This year, we sent volunteers into two different neighborhoods, both to offer practical help with projects but also as a way of connecting with neighbors in our city that we might not otherwise meet. One of those areas was around Demaret Drive, located in the Third Ward. Residents in that neighborhood partnered with us to identify some helpful things our volunteers could do, and a local property owner also partnered with us in replacing mailboxes for multiple residents of their properties. We hosted a barbecue, inviting the nearest fire fighters to join in the fun, giving out basketballs and offering other kid-friendly activities. A second barbecue was hosted by Tabernacle of Grace Ministry, a partnering ForColumbia church. At this neighborhood event in the First Ward, volunteers offered free coin laundry service, hosted yet another Plant Day for neighbors, gave out basketballs and offered free lunch, much of which was homemade by volunteers.
- The Loop Projects: This year we partnered with The Loop Community Improvement District (The Loop CID) for the first time to kick off their efforts to improve the area of town along the Business Loop from the Parkade Plaza area and moving eastward. Nearly 100 volunteers worked together to accomplish two CID-coordinated projects. We installed a Bike Repair Station in front of Parkade Plaza, where cyclists can stop to make their own repairs to their vehicles; we also put together an urban Pop-Up Park on a largely-unused parking lot just east of Dave Griggs Flooring America, also along the Business Loop. Here, volunteers put together picnic tables, planted large planters of flowers, laid astro-turf, painted large storage containers and hung strings of lights to create a common public space for anyone to use. This fun time-lapse video gives a good sense of how The Loop CID and ForColumbia volunteers took an empty patch of asphalt and turned it into a fun public space in a single day.
- Prayer Hubs: For the second year, ForColumbia partnering churches hosted Prayer Hubs in every Ward in the city. Volunteers who served on April 27th at these locations were asked to pray for many things: the specific work being done all over the city, that it would be completed well and would be a huge benefit to those we were serving; they prayed for those serving and those being served, for protection and blessing and comfort, and for connections to be made among God’s people; they prayed for our city to feel the grace and beauty of its Creator God through the work being done to His glory; for wisdom and discernment within our city government, its protectors within Columbia Police and Fire Departments, and others; and they prayed specifically for any and all needs that arose at thee more than 85 locations where our volunteers were. All serving sites were encouraged to send in “live” prayer requests to these teams, and we received dozens of those in-the-moment prayers that were then lifted to God on their behalf.
- Debris and Transportation Teams: ForColumbia partnered with the City of Columbia in acquiring four large dumpsters, and teams of volunteers spent their day serving all the other volunteers working at specific project sites by traveling to these locations and collecting enough trash to fill – perhaps over-fill! – all four of those dumpsters. These servant-hearted teams also picked up a lot of yard waste and delivered it to one of the mulch sites in our city, delivered water and lunches to all our volunteers in dozens of locations, ran errands for last-minute needs for our team leaders, and more.
More and more, we are seeing a great spirit of cooperation and partnership between our city government and the people of our city who truly want to see Columbia thrive, and it’s a joy to us to be a part of these projects that we believe communicates to our community that we want to work for its good.
All glory to God. Amen.