Growth For Our Community by Supplying Aid to Others

Many of Columbia’s nonprofit organizations focus on the well being of those who live in and around our city. Giving locally is a sentiment heard often in our community; shop local initiatives heighten awareness for the importance of our neighbors throughout the holiday season. A few nonprofit organizations bring resources from our citizens to neighbors a bit farther away than walking distance. They build community abroad, bringing with them the neighborly spirit of our city, and give back to our community by taking home experiences and perspectives earned after taking care of others in need.

Personal Energy Transportation, PET MO-ColumbiaWhat is community? For Personal Energy Transportation MO-Columbia (PET) it is the world and anyone in it who has need of the gift of mobility. Mel West, a founder of PET, stated it well when he said, “Working with PET makes us all citizens of the world and sisters and brothers to all its inhabitants.”

Over 200 local volunteers make and donate hand-cranked, all terrain wheelchairs that provide the gift of mobility. Many of the building supplies used by PET-Columbia come from local area businesses. Limited mobility means isolation, depression and daily struggle for the basics in life. PET gives people an opportunity for a life of pride, dignity, hope and productivity. “Our volunteers give themselves and know they have changed the lives of persons who have been crawling on the ground,” said Mel.

PET works with countless other organizations both internationally and locally to provide the financial resources, volunteers, and resources needed for distribution of transportation vehicles. Last year PET’s hand-cranked wheelchairs were packed into a 40-foot container destined for Kutaisi, Georgia, along with more than $300,000 of supplies including: reconditioned sewing machines and fabric for teachers and needy families, shoes for refugee adults and children, art and crafts supplies for young diabetic campers, and medical books and journals for students and doctors. A Call to Serve International (ACTS) brought together dozens of local volunteers, donors, businesses and organizations to supply, organize and fund these resources that traveled halfway around the world.

A Call To Serve“Each partnering individual and group has a heart for those far away who have little to their names, but still hope for a bright future for their children and for their country to become a successful democracy,” shared Delores Shearon of ACTS International.

ACTS International also partners locally with churches, city government, schools, professional organizations and businesses that donate materials and services, teaming up to bring much-needed medical and humanitarian aid to save and improve lives in our sister city and other impoverished regions of Georgia. For example, Lions Clubs prepare hygiene kits for campers so that Georgian children with diabetes have a healthy setting in which to learn self-management skills needed for survival to adulthood. Delores explained, “By banding together, each effort — whether small or large — becomes significant and adds to the pride we have in being a community that is marked by service to others. It also strengthens us as a community by knowing how much of a difference a few people can make if they set their minds on doing good.”

These organizations know that the efforts of Columbia’s volunteers build and strengthen communities abroad and also strengthen our own community by bringing the experiences and knowledge back home. These experiences give perspective to our citizens and help develop well-rounded leaders with a heightened global perspective.

Be the Change VolunteersBe The Change Volunteers (BTCV), often partnering with schools, sends volunteer teams on education-based construction projects. Columbia Independent School is in it’s fifth year of sending students and teachers on BTCV school construction projects worldwide. “Gaining a global perspective in a classroom is important to being a well-rounded person,” said Director Grant Venable about student involvement. “Gaining a global perspective through travel, service and interaction is important to being a well-rounded leader.”

In the last year, BTCV has sent volunteer teams to participate on four different projects located on various other continents. One of the most impactful stories of 2014 happened in El Chino, Peru, a small fishing village located on a tributary of the Amazon River. As the smooth varnish shined on a brand new teachers desk, at a brand new classroom, one of the El Chino teachers said to team members, “I have never had a desk.”

Because of a Columbia based organization, a teacher thousands of miles away feels like her job matters. “That simple act of ‘hand delivering hope’ will change the way she teaches hundreds of students for years to come,” Grant reminded us. “Knowing that you’re part of the solution to the world’s biggest problems has immeasurable impact.”

The members of our community are unselfish, volunteer minded humanitarians; through their physical labor and monetary support nonprofits in our community can bring a piece of the Columbia spirit abroad. Give these organizations the boost they need to continue bringing aid to others and help give our community the knowledge and experiences only these groups of generous people can deliver. Donate now at


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