COLUMBIA — While some of Columbia residents were sleeping in on a recent Saturday morning, a group of volunteers was well into a new service project to revamp a local soup kitchen and homeless shelter facility.
Volunteers moved through the halls of Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church carrying buckets of cleaning supplies, shelving units and an assortment of power tools as Mike Sykuta directed traffic.
Sykuta is coordinator of the Second Saturday mission and outreach ministry, which meets every second Saturday of the month for a morning of community service.
Sykuta, a member of Community United Methodist Church, started the project in October. Dec. 8 marked the third Second Saturday project.
In October and November, Sykuta and a group of about eight volunteers met at 8:30 a.m., split up and headed out to help the elderly, single-parent families and people with disabilities with their yard work and household chores.
The December project with Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church was a collaboration to prepare the church to provide shelter and hospitality to Columbia's homeless during the winter through the church's Room at the Inn program.
The program will operate in January and February in conjunction with the church's Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen. The church needed to upgrade its kitchen and housing facilities for the new guests.
"We're trying to provide the most efficient and hospitable place for our housing and dining guests," Meg Hegemann, the church's pastor, said.
Sykuta's team of Second Saturday volunteers helped move appliances in the kitchen to allow more working space. The team also cleaned and prepared space for beds.
"We really appreciate all the community support for taking on new ministries and to help serve our community," Hegemann said. "I hope someday we’ll be able to return the favor and be on the giving end of this service project."
The Second Saturday ministry stemmed from a statewide outreach project, SERVE2012, organized through the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church
Sykuta became involved with the project's Columbia-wide leadership team when he saw potential for expansion.
"As we were preparing for that (SERVE2012), we thought, 'Why is this happening only once a year? Why isn't this happening all the time?'" Sykuta said. "It would be a really easy way for us to make a difference in the community on a regular basis."
He contacted the Boone County Council on Aging and prepared a list of opportunities for a group volunteer effort at his church.
"They recognized through that one weekend that there's so much need and so much to be done in the community," Phelps said. “I'm hoping what they're doing here will inspire other churches to do similar projects around Columbia."
For Sykuta, the reasoning behind serving others in the community is simple.
"We want to help our neighbors and make a positive difference in Columbia," he said. "And we want other people to do that, too. We want to make this something that people of all ages and skills can do."
Among the returning volunteers are Diare Scott, 15, and Navarro Scott, 12, both part of the Community United Methodist Church youth ministry.
"We came to help with the church," Diare said. "It's just fun to help out."
Navarro agreed: "You're helping the needy, and it’s nice to do that."
Mike Hendren of Community United Methodist Church sees the Second Saturday project not only as a way to help out around Columbia but to also teach the youth groups the importance of service to the community.
"It gives them, and the people they work with, an appreciation of helping others," he said. "It sets the tone of what they can do in the community and pass forward as young men and women to help lead the next generation in helping the world."
With steadier footing, Sykuta sees room for the ministry's further development. He hopes to team up with local elementary schools to provide maintenance services to their grounds.
He is also working on gathering more members of the public, especially students at Columbia's three major universities, to help with the monthly volunteer effort.
"Second Saturday is not a church project," he said. "It's open to anybody of any religion or lack of religion."
While the program has consistently seen about a dozen volunteers per project since its inception three months ago, Sykuta hopes to eventually see around 40 to 50 regular volunteers per month.
"We want to make it simple," he said. "If all they want to do is do something nice for someone else, every Second Saturday we'll have an opportunity for them."