‘Serve Weekend’ initiative by churches, nonprofits aims to meet wide variety of local needs

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media

Brent Ressler, executive director of the Small World Connections ministry, is one of the organizers of a “Serve Weekend” scheduled for Oct. 27-28 in Chillicothe in which churches, nonprofit groups and residents will join together to complete service projects in the community. (Photo by Elise Zwicky)


More than a dozen Chillicothe-area churches and nonprofit groups are joining together in October to complete service projects as part of a “Serve Weekend” initiative.

“The event is designed to meet real local needs while working together as a united community,” said Brent Ressler, executive director of the Small World Connections ministry and one of the event organizers. “We’re looking forward to connecting community members not only with each other but also with several businesses and nonprofits in town throughout the weekend.”

Residents can view a list of volunteer opportunities for the Oct. 27-28 event and can sign up for a project by visiting the website. Signing up in advance is not required but is recommended to help with the planning process.

“People can still show up on those days even if they haven’t signed up for a project. We have plenty of projects that we can plug somebody into,” Ressler said.

Projects include painting at the Helping Hands Resale Shoppe, writing thank you cards to military service members with Heritage Health senior care residents, installing winterizing kits provided by the Community Needs Agency, painting a stage at the Chillicothe City Park, touching up the city welcome signs at the edges of town and replacing or repairing flooring tiles at the Crossword Café youth center.

“We’ll also have a few kid-friendly projects that families can help with like raking and clean-up projects in the parks,” Ressler said.

The idea of the service weekend isn’t entirely new, but it’s the first time it’s being organized this way.

“The Chillicothe Christian Church has done what they call ‘The Church Has Left the Building’ for I don’t know how many years,” Ressler said. “At least once a year they have a Sunday where they don’t have a regular church service, but they go out and do projects instead.”

Last year the church, which Ressler attends, tried to broaden the event to include other churches.

“It was pretty hard to expect churches to not have a regular church service on a Sunday. That was kind of a foreign thing to people. So we changed the expectation this year,” he explained. “We thought having it both Saturday and Sunday would be a good thing, and we asked each church or ministry to plan a project instead of having one group or person come up with all the projects.”

Painting this stage in the Chillicothe City Park is one of many service projects residents can sign up to help with during “Serve Weekend” Oct. 27-28 in Chillicothe. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for the projects ahead of time to help facilitate the planning and organization. (Photo by Elise Zwicky)

On both days the event will kick off at the Picket Fence Floral, Gift and Garden Center at 310 N. Fourth St. Following a brief worship service, teams of volunteers will disperse to the various sites to complete projects until about noon.

While he’s unsure what to expect, Ressler said he’s hoping to get about 50 people to volunteer each of the two days. “We could accomplish a lot with 50 people,” he said.

Just as important as completing the projects, however, is the idea of bringing people from different churches to serve together, Ressler added.

“We’re trying to make it a little more accessible for people to get involved whether they’re with one of the churches or they just live in town and want to help out. We’re hoping to get all ages involved to help serve our community,” he said.

As part of the event, local churches will be leading a food drive throughout October to help stock the Love-in-Action food pantry, which has been serving area families for more than 30 years at the Chillicothe Assembly of God Church.

“We’re calling it Stocktober,” Ressler said. “All the churches are collecting different food items each of the Sundays leading up to Serve Weekend. Anyone who doesn’t go to a church can still drop off food donations in the lobby at any of the churches.”

While all donations of non-perishables will be welcome, the Rev. Ed Dutton, who started the food pantry, has suggested the following schedule of donations: canned meat on Oct. 7; peanut butter and jelly on Oct. 14; and macaroni and cheese on Oct. 21.

As part of “Serve Weekend” Oct. 27-28 in Chillicothe, local churches are leading a food drive throughout the month, which organizers have dubbed Stocktober, to help stock the Love-in-Action food pantry. The pantry has been open for more than 30 years and serves 60 to 80 families a week. (Photo by Elise Zwicky)

“Those are some of the things that are always needed,” Ressler said. “On Oct. 27, a crew of volunteers will go around to all the churches and pick up the donations.”

Dutton said the donations will be timely for the food pantry, which serves 60 to 80 families weekly. “It’s a hard time of the year right now for food because the food we collected during the big spring food drive has pretty much run out. So it will really help,” he said.

The pantry is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Fridays. “There’s an income guideline that follows the SNAP (federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) guidelines, and our boundary is Mossville at Detweiller Park all the way to Henry, Lacon, Varna and Washburn,” Dutton said.

Ressler hopes the Serve Weekend will continue in the future. “I think it will grow based on people feeling like it’s rewarding and that they’re making a difference. I’d also like to see it become more of a spontaneous thing where we might have a call list of people who are willing to help when we see there’s a need, rather than just a once-a-year event.”

Groups that are leading the effort include the Chillicothe Assembly of God Church, Chillicothe Bible Church, Chillicothe Christian Church, Community Needs Agency, Crossword Café youth center, First United Methodist Church, Northwoods Church, Rome Baptist Church, Small World Connections, St. Mark Lutheran Church, St. Edward Church and Youth for Christ.

For more information, visit the website www.smallworldconnect.org or email Brent Ressler at smallworldministries@frontier.com.