City of Bloomington Relies on Network of Churches to Care for Community
What started as a handful of churches volunteering for a day of service in Bloomington through CityServe, has evolved into a year-round partnership between CityServe volunteers and city of Bloomington staff. Tracy Smith, coordinator of Bloomington’s Human Services department says due to the help and commitment of CityServe volunteers over the past four years, the network of churches is often the department’s first call when someone in the community needs help.
“CityServe is top of mind for certain calls for service. There are a lot of situations where CityServe is my ‘go-to’ to help out. They have organized themselves well and they are quick to respond,” said Smith.
CityServe organizers say it’s an honor to be making such strong connections with the city, and they hope those partnership will trickle down to residents in need.
“In our society right now when you are in crisis you don’t go to the church, most people’s first call is to the city. I would love Bloomington to be a city where people know if you are in crisis, call a church, not the city,” said Kirsten Phillips, coordinator of CityServe.
CityServe has been offering helping hands around Bloomington for the past 4 years, through small home repair jobs, yard work, moving large objects, and house painting. Already some of the fruits of these churches’ labor is being revealed.
Making Relationships with Community Members
Last year at the 2014 Summer single parent oil change, there was a single mom from Brazil who showed up to get her oil changed. Pastor Mike Olmstead of Evergreen Bloomington Church was visiting with her and told her about their single mom’s group on Wednesday nights. That single mother now comes on Wednesday nights, and is now involved in the church.
Olmstead says one encounter he had with a young boy at CityServe reminded him how through these acts of service, he is illustrating Jesus’ love for his neighbors.
“I was standing on a ladder, and a single mom’s son looked up at me and said, ‘Your God must be a good God.’ I asked ‘Why’ and he said, ‘Because of what you’re doing,'” said Olmstead. “Somehow this kid was able to put it together. This is exactly what we want, for God to get the glory for what we’re doing.”
The city of Bloomington trusts the volunteers of CityServe to show-up when they say they will, and Tracy Smith says the churches in CityServe’s network have resources and relationships beyond what the city can provide.
“There are a lot of non-profits that do pieces to support individuals in the community, but there always seems to be gaps as to which non-profits can support which people,” said Smith. “We have found if someone has limited funds, CityServe fills the gap.”
That’s exactly what CityServe aims to accomplish.
“People falling between the cracks, they aren’t capable of taking care of somethings on their own, we can fill in those holes,” said Phillips.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
The first two years of CityServe, Transform Minnesota was involved in planning the inaugural CityServe days of service; offering leadership and vision for the network of Bloomington Churches. Transform Minnesota helped the planning team expand CityServe into an ongoing resource to meet the needs in the community. Transform Minnesota is proud to see how CityServe has grown and how the partnership of churches is expanding and working together for the common good of the community.
CityServe Summer 2015 was held this past weekend, and over 130 volunteers showed up to serve at dozens homes and schools, they packed 400 kitchen packs for a transitional housing organization, and changed the oil in dozens of cars of single parents to show love to their neighbors in practical ways.
The churches that make up CityServe are Hillside Church, Evergreen Bloomington Church, Emmaus Lutheran Church, Oxboro Evangelical Free, Bethany Church in Bloomington, Brazilian Church of Hope. For more information on how to get involved in CityServe, contact Kirsten Phillips.