COLUMBIA — Sunday, Columbia will wake up to a downtown that’s a little cleaner and brighter.
Karis Community Church, a congregation that meets at 10 a.m. on Sundays in the ballroom of the Tiger building at 8th and Cherry streets, has volunteered to do its part to remove downtown graffiti.
“This is the first part, first stage,” said Rob Gaskin, a pastoral assistant and deacon with Karis Community Church. “The church is a member of the downtown Special Business District and the SBD notified all the members that there’s a need for graffiti removal downtown.”
About 20 volunteers met at the Cherry Street Artisan at 9 a.m. Saturday. After a few brief comments and words of encouragement from Gaskin, the volunteers fanned out through downtown searching for stickers, “tags” and any other marks they thought mar public and private property.
Leigh Nutter, volunteer coordinator for the City of Columbia, commended Karis Community Church for its graffiti project.
“It’s really a neat project,” Nutter said. “Anyone can benefit from this service. The city crews have been making some progress but they can’t keep up.”
In July, Columbia city staff met to brainstorm ways to deter graffiti throughout the city.
As part of their graffiti abatement program, the city commissioned artist David Spear in September to paint the traffic box on the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street.
As of Saturday morning, Spear’s traffic box art remains pristine and graffiti-free.
Nutter said that the Public Works Department helped out the Karis Community Church group with some cleaning supplies, purchasing cans of the all-purpose paint remover “Goof-Off,” as well as dust pans and brooms.
“The volunteers provided rags, buckets and the labor,” Nutter said.
And, in some cases, the labor wasn’t even necessary.
The black scrawl on one yellow traffic light at the corner of Cherry and 8th streets began to dissolve and run immediately after a volunteer sprayed it with the cleaning solvent.
Gaskin said he encourages business owners to call the Karis Community Church and ask for help in removing troublesome graffiti.
“Businesses owners will be calling and saying, ‘Hey, we’re a small business. We’ve got graffiti. Can you come and help clean this stuff off?’” Gaskin said.
In that case, Gaskin can be reached at 529-0909 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.