- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

FULTON, Mo. (AP) - The folks at SERVE have long been responsible for stepping up and making sure the residents of Callaway County have the things they need when life gets tough.

But one morning, a small group of past and present volunteers, staff, donors and board members gathered at the SERVE offices to celebrate a gift that was kept within the organization itself, because that gift allowed Executive Director Steve Mallinckrodt to ceremoniously set fire to their mortgage and watch it burn, saving only a small corner piece for a memory book.

“We received a gift of $9,500, which was about the amount left on the mortgage,” said Mallinckrodt. “I contacted the giver and asked if it was OK for the money to be used that way.” After getting approval from the donor, arrangements were made for the final payment to be made to the bank.

“The party is both a ‘thank you’ and a ‘congratulations’ to all the people who have been involved with SERVE through the years,” he said.

“We have had wonderful donors and volunteers and great leaders and staff over the years who have taken their stewardship of SERVE to heart,” said Kim Barnes, current board of directors president, in her opening statements. “Not a day goes by without a food drive, a sustaining donation, a new volunteer, someone raising their hand and saying, ‘I want to help.’ We’re here today to say ‘thank you,’” she told the circle of supporters.

According to Robert Bullock’s “The Origins of SERVE, Inc.,” which is a brief history written via a collaboration by many of the original founders, the organization began in 1970 when Pastor Cecil Culverhouse of First Presbyterian Church of Fulton led a group of nine churches to form the Ecumenical Ministries of Callaway County.

Those original nine churches were: the Court Street United Methodist, First Presbyterian of Fulton, Fulton United Church of Christ, St. Peter’s Catholic, Auxvasse City Presbyterian, Mount Olivet Presbyterian (now dissolved), Old-Auxvasse-Nine Mile Presbyterian, which counted as two, and Prairie Chapel United Methodist.

“Each participating church made a commitment of volunteers and financial resources in support of the common ministry,” Bullock wrote. “At its peak, EM enlisted more than 400 volunteers in its programs. The Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ regional governing bodies also provided financial support.”

By 1971, EM recognized a need for a social services arm to “combine resources from federal, state and local funding sources, which were needed to accomplish broader social objectives,” as the amount of funds required for such need was far beyond the resources of the churches. Thus they created SERVE, Inc., which was related to, but legally separate from, EM.

The Fulton Sun (https://bit.ly/1Ny5FFQ ) reports that early programs included, among others, a Christ-centered day camp for children, an overnight camp for middle school students and a Mother to Mother program. They also started the annual CROP Hunger Walk sponsored by Church World Service, as well as established the food pantry, a used clothing center -now known as The Clothes Cupboard - and two homeless shelters - Haven House and Wiley House. They also funded drug and alcohol counseling programs, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.

“You have to know where you came from,” said Richard White, one of the original founders of SERVE, when he gave a brief history for the crowd.

In a later email conversation, White spoke of those early years.

“When SERVE was first formed, we had in mind a few things we could start,” he wrote. “But then we found out all the many grants that were available, and the board meetings were filled with all kinds of ideas about how we could take advantage of all the (funds) available. It was a very exciting time.”

Today, SERVE reaches approximately 1,000 families through the food pantry, makes 2,000 trips via their transportation program and assists between 50 and 60 families through the clothes cupboard. This doesn’t include the multitudes that receive assistance with utilities, school supplies, health services, and the Christmas Adopt-a-Family program.

“We had two families who experienced home fires this past week,” said Mallinckrodt. “We’re here to provide those basic household needs.”

Mallinckrodt also gave kudos to area churches, the Red Cross and other community services who step forward to help the people of Callaway County.

“So many people give what they can so that we can meet the needs of the community. It’s giving the old-fashioned way by sharing time and giving of ourselves,” he said.

Another windfall came to SERVE this month when they were bequeathed $82,757.56 by the Frank Watson estate.

“We had been told we were named in the estate, but not the amount,” said Mallinckrodt. “When the check came in the mail on December 1st, I had to look at it three or four times to make sure it was real.”

He said it was too soon to have a plan as to how they will use the funds and says he’s still amazed at receiving the gift. Currently, however, their building could use some improvements and the truck used for food pickups is requiring repairs.

“We will be diligent in our decisions for how best to be good stewards with this gift,” he said.


Information from: The Fulton Sun, https://www.fultonsun.com

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