#ForColumbia2016…By The Numbers

ForColumbia 2016Oftentimes we Christians give of our time, talent and treasure for various ministry efforts and yet at the same time keep a slightly-cynical eye on the “tangible” results…and our wallets. While it’s completely natural to wonder if our efforts are “time well spent” or a complete waste, it’s helpful to remember that Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a seed planted in the ground; we may very well never know with any certainty what God might (or might not) have been pleased to do with our meager offerings (Mark 4:26-29).

All that said, the raw numbers associated with #ForColumbia2016 contain many reasons to celebrate the blessing of God on our local community.

ForColumbia 2016What was going on in Columbia in the days and weeks prior to April 22-23?

Before the weekend of April 22-23 ever came to pass, ForColumbia had many dedicated individuals working to make it a reality, actively seeking specific volunteer opportunities for hundreds and hundreds of people, opportunities that would bring believers together and would benefit our city in what we hope will live far beyond last weekend.

For one, the biggest serving site this year was a collaborative effort to work at individual homes in Columbia’s First Ward.

Last year, approximately 700 volunteers worked at non-profits all over town and at a few homes of residents specifically referred by some of those organizations. This year, in addition to partnering with those non-profits that are working in the lives of people in our community all year long, we wanted to be able to work with more individuals.

ForColumbia 2016ForColumbia’s leadership team sought the help of our city officials to identify areas of town that are in the most need of extra assistance, and chose to work in the First Ward this year, as multiple churches in that same area offered to partner with us in this effort. Having identified a broad area, we then needed to identify specific residents. Early in March, dozens of volunteers from at least five churches banded together over two weekends to canvass the streets around Calvary Baptist Church – at the corner of Worley and Ridgeway – talking to residents and identifying local needs.

As we canvassed, I was struck by the number of disabled, chronically ill, elderly and alone, and single-parent homes in a 12-block area. Many of the residents were working hard to care for their homes and families but were beset with multiple difficulties. At the end of our canvassing efforts, I was convinced that, while helping people in an identified area would undoubtedly be messy and there might be some who could take advantage of what we were trying to do, we would end up offering a little practical help and – more importantly – encouragement to many, many people who need it.

ForColumbia 2016

What was going on all over Columbia last weekend?

If you were one of the more than 1,600 people who signed up to serve last weekend, you were able to see firsthand at least one of the dozens of serving sites that ForColumbia volunteers completed. It’s good for all of us to step back, however, and take a look at the bigger picture.

  • Two churches – Forum Boulevard and First Presbyterian – hosted volunteers who put together care packages for five different ministries here in town. Those care package details include:
    • 200 “Birthday Bags” (cake mix, frosting, candles, cake plates, etc.) provided to Food Bank for distribution to families that might not otherwise be able to give their children a small birthday party;
    • 75 Refugee Welcome Kits provided to City of Refuge for new families entering our country and establishing a home here in Columbia;
    • 100 duffel bags (underwear, toothbrush/toothpaste, gum/candy) to Rainbow House to give to children coming out of crisis home situations with nothing of their own;
    • ForColumbia 2016200 soup jars (dried beans and spices, along with a recipe for how to complete the soup) provided to Love INC for their clients who need assistance acquiring food but also the encouragement they can provide for their families on their own one day soon;
    • 200 Homeless Summer Needs Packs (deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, combs, bus pass, etc.) provided to Wilkes Boulevard for the clients they assist through their homeless ministry.
  • Boys and Girls Club: Volunteers worked to landscape around this ministry’s building and paint parking lines on their lot; clean out a large attic so it could be useful; install window blinds, paint a room and create a chalkboard wall for the kids active in this ministry.
  • Cedar Creek: Volunteers spread mulch along the paths through the woods where the horses are led and cleared brush and branches from the woods, cleaning up the area and freeing up this organization’s volunteers to focus on the disabled individuals they help.
  • The children who were placed in childcare while their parents served with ForColumbia were also given opportunities to serve. Volunteers assisted the children, and together they decorated and planted flowers in 50 pots, which were delivered to Woodhaven residents all over the city. Children also made cards and pictures for Columbia’s police officers and firefighters.
  • City of Refuge: Volunteers helped to build a raised garden bed for one refugee family and spread gravel for another, while others sorted through and organized donations for families new to our area and country.
  • ForColumbia 2016City workers were recognized the week leading up to the service weekend, and even following.
    • 200 police officers received dinner and homemade baked goods on two different nights, along with cards of appreciation from people at many of the partnering churches;
    • 115 Publics Works employees received breakfast on Monday morning following the serving weekend;
    • 100+ firefighters in Columbia received meals delivered to the nine fire stations, all provided by ForColumbia volunteers; in all, 27 meals were delivered to each of the shifts. In addition, each station received a gift for the men and women working at their particular site. Things like a set of knives or cookware, a Blu-ray player or a sound bar were given, in hopes of making the fire stations a bit more like home.
  • Cor: This small ministry benefited greatly when volunteers arrived to clean the space thoroughly and build shelves in a closet.
  • Coyote Hill: Approximately 170 volunteers deep-cleaned the five homes as well as the vehicles at Coyote Hill, cleaned carpets, powerwashed homes and decks, spruced up landscaping all over the property, cleared out and organized multiple sheds on the property, built shelves and prepared multiple freezer meals for each of the house families.
  • First Ward: More than 350 volunteers worked at 96 homes doing yard clean-up and planting bushes. In addition, they built two wheelchair ramps, powerwashed and stained 10 decks/wheelchair ramps, fixed a fence, rebuilt a shed door, built two raised garden beds, powerwashed multiple homes, trimmed trees and removed dead branches at at least 10 homes. At one home we assisted a disabled woman with work inside, organizing her closet and doing some cleaning she couldn’t reach. At another home, we gutted the bathroom where a family was living without a sink for the last six months, installed a new vanity and relaid flooring.
  • ForColumbia 2016Food Bank: Over 250 volunteers worked over three shifts at this organization which helps feed so many needy in our community; that volunteer total includes nearly 100 people on Friday night comprised primarily of middle-schoolers and their parents and/or youth leaders from at least four churches.
  • Giving Gardens: A team of volunteers painted the large outdoor break area of the Giving Gardens employees and weeded and freshened some nearby flower beds. ForColumbia also provided two new picnic tables for this area, as employees were using well-worn and uncomfortable picnic benches. Lowe’s offered these picnic tables to us at 50% off and put them together for us free of charge.
  • Granny’s House: Volunteers repainted the main room and re-carpeted the area as well, planted flowers in front pots, spread mulch and hung out with the neighborhood kids.
  • Habitat for Humanity: More than 30 ForColumbia volunteers participated in the work being done on Habitat’s current building site.
  • In2Action: A small number of hard-working men built a 40-foot awning along the back of one of the homes the In2Action guys live in, giving the residents a shaded place on the property to relax.
  • Love INC: Volunteers here helped to remodel the office kitchen area, increasing cabinet space and replacing carpet in the kitchen with linoleum. They also painted the main hall/foyer area in their offices and installed new shelving units in a main storage closet.
  • ForColumbia 2016Daycares in the First Ward: We worked at three daycares in the First Ward, all of which accept sliding scales for payment and often work with lower-income families to provide affordable childcare for working parents.
    • Mary Lee Johnston Daycare: Cleaned windows and gutters, cleaned up flower beds and playground area.
    • Nanny’s Neighborhood: Cleaned up and organized the large playground surrounding three sides of the building; put together two wooden playsets (purchased by daycare), repaired swing set, installed basketball hoop, spread rubber mulch throughout, repaired some fencing and painted/stained sections of fence.
    • Alma’s Daycare: Cleaned up yard and planted bushes at this in-home daycare. Reorganized two large storage areas, including building shelves to accommodate supplies, food storage, etc.
  • PET-MO: A small group of volunteers painted an outside wall of the building that had been vandalized with graffiti.
  • Primrose Hill: Over 40 people drove to Clark, Missouri, (just north of Columbia) to paint a donated church building and to provide landscaping for this ministry to young mothers struggling with addictions.
  • ForColumbia 2016Rainbow House: Approximately 30 volunteers in two shifts helped to set up and tear down Rainbow House’s Spring Fair at Flat Branch Park, an annual event to raise awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
  • True North: Volunteers provided landscaping at the administrative building of True North, beautifying the area for those who find themselves needing the help this organization provides to battered women.
  • United Community Cathedral: Volunteers built shelves in their administrative building and removed an office wall.
  • Urban Empowerment 10-Year Anniversary Event: More than 30 volunteers partnered with Urban Empowerment volunteers to host a 3K event Saturday morning at Hickman High School to commemorate this church’s 10-year anniversary. Our volunteers organized games for the children of the 3K participants as well as assisted with registration. ForColumbia provided lunch for all involved in this celebratory event.
  • ForColumbia 2016Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church: Approximately 40 volunteers worked at this church which has multiple ministries to the homeless; teams painted six rooms and hallways, built storage shelving, removed a window air conditioning unit and sealed the window, installed another toilet and stall walls in the men’s bathroom and built a storage closet as well.
  • Woodhaven: Nearly 65 volunteers from four churches worked at 12 different homes of Woodhaven clients, providing landscaping work on the outside and cleaning on the inside for developmentally challenged residents.
  • Oak Towers: On Friday night, a dozen volunteers hung out with the residents, playing games and eating pizza and cookies. On Saturday, nearly 60 people worked to clean the building’s common spaces top to bottom, as well as assisting many residents with housework in their small apartments.
  • Youth Empowerment Zone: Volunteers replaced the siding on the entire back of the YEZ building, painting, adding window trim and caulking the area; installed a basketball hoop; spread rubber mulch around the playground; repaired the existing fence and added another section with a gate, for added security for the children’s area.

ForColumbia 2016Words seem entirely inadequate to express the deep gratitude everyone on the ForColumbia feels for our ministry sponsors, partners and volunteers. Suffice for now to say that a great deal of new friendships have formed, many long-standing divides among God’s people have crumbled and our city is just a little bit better than it was on April 21st. Thank you to all!

James 2:14-17 (ESV)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

One Comment

  1. Kari Hopkins said:

    This is incredible. Thank you, Shelly for sharing this post of all the things that happened. I didn’t know about half of the projects or nearly the total scope of everything. Very cool.

Leave a Reply