April 9, 2022

Caring for Columbia was back in full force in-person for its 20th year Saturday after a virtual kickoff in 2021 and no event in 2020.

The program is MU’s largest student-led day of service, according to an MU news release.

“This is my second time, and I like it. I wish I could have done it during COVID,” said Brooke Lincoln, senior and involvement ambassador. “I’m happy to be back.”

MU students met at Traditions Plaza and were then sent out on buses to various volunteer locations including local nonprofits, organizations and homes with low-income or disabled residents.

About 325 students signed up to participate this year, beating the event’s goal of 300 sign-ups, said Matt Hemmersmeier, executive director of Caring for Columbia.

“We had a great turnout, especially for our first year back as our normal day of service,” Hemmersmeier said.

Caring for Columbia’s largest turnout was 750-1,000 volunteers, Hemmersmeier said. “So many new students are unaware of what we do, just because we haven’t had it in the past few years.”

“One of our friends signed us up. So, it’s a group of four of us that came out, and it’s fun with each other,” freshman Aubri Willis said. Willis served at the Daniel Boone Regional Library.

At the library, volunteers helped the library transfer to a new system to check out books faster.

“Oh, it’s been fantastic. They have been a tremendous help,” Nathan Pauley, technical service manager for the library, said.

Many volunteers came as parts of MU groups, such as Involvement Ambassadors, Tiger Pantry and the Office of Student Engagement, while others volunteered alone.

“I feel like this is just another way that you can meet new people, whether you’re new or not at Mizzou, and a good way to serve the community,” Lincoln said.

Other volunteer sites included Welcome Home, Inc., Candlelight Lodge, Alternative Community Training, City of Columbia Volunteer Programs, Columbia Senior Activity Center, Finger Lakes State Park and Daniel Boone Regional Library.

The Office of Student Engagement, Residence Halls Association, MFA Incorporated, Panhellenic Association, Veterans United Foundation, Great Southern Bank and Noodles & Company sponsored the event.

“I just wanted to volunteer,” junior Kate Whitmore said. ”I had a free Saturday.”