Columbia United Methodist churches come together for 9/11 day of service

Monday, July 25, 2011 | 5:59 p.m. CDT; updated 10:15 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 27, 2011

COLUMBIA — When it came time to plan events for Serve 2011, a statewide service movement by the United Methodist Church, all six United Methodist churches in Columbia decided to work together.

Back in May, the churches decided they would organize a day of service on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to give back to needy people in the community.

Expert volunteers sought

For their 9/11 day of service, United Methodist churches in Columbia are looking for volunteers with particular expertise in housing and lawn maintenance. The Rev. Keith Vessel can be reached at

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“This is not all about giving repairs, but is about getting to know the community,” said the Rev. Keith Vessell, associate pastor of Missouri United Methodist Church.

Vessell said that with this day of service, the church is trying to help the people who constantly slip through the cracks. “There are some folks due to physical limitation or financial reasons who cannot keep up their yard or exterior home,” he said.

These people end up in a sort of cycle, Vessel said. The city fines them for the way their houses and yards look, but they don’t have money to pay for the repairs or fines.

Vessell said the day of service would be dedicated to solving these problems for some people.

The church members will go out into the community to:

  • Mow yards and do lawn care.
  • Repair small exterior damages and paint houses.
  • Fix small interior damages.

“We also want to do things for the community to brighten up the whole block,” Vessell said. “One idea is putting a white mum in every front yard. It would be a reminder of those lost on 9/11 and would brighten the community."

Vessell is working closely with the city and other assisting agencies to find families in the community to serve. The city is providing a lot of the logistical help, he said, but the church is providing most of the manpower.

“We are the behind the scenes workers, providing places to store supplies, making sure there are dumpsters on site and reaching out to local stores for aid,” said Bill Cantin, Neighborhood Response Coordinator of the city's Office of Neighborhood Services.

Cantin said the city is acting more like a referral service to the churches, giving them the names of people in need and helping provide what is needed.

“We applied for a small grant affiliated with (national) 9/11 days of service,” Cantin said. The $1,000 grant is going to the churches.

Vessell said they are looking for volunteers with specific expertise, for example in carpentry or painting. He said they are looking for one or two experts at every site to direct people and oversee the projects.

Given the size of the congregations and the limited number of people being helped, Vessell said they won't have service work for everyone who wants to volunteer. But there would be other things to do, such as entertaining the families whose houses are being worked on or providing refreshments for those working.

Vessell is excited about the project and said that, although there has been no talk of it yet, he doesn't see why it can't become an annual event. 

“It is a chance to come together as one church in the community,” he said.

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