Colorado Springs churches showed once again that charity begins at home.
Nearly 2,000 member of local congregations donated their time for the third annual CityServe day, volunteering at schools, city parks, nursing homes and other places in need of an extra helping hand .
CityServe, an annual day of faith-based community service, is intended to spark conversations in churches on city engagement, build greater connections between churches and be a catalyst for change.
"Faith is not just something you talk or sing about, it must be displayed," said Yemi Mobolade , the founder of CityServe Colorado Springs and the local industry programs manager for the Chamber of Commerce & EDC.
About 1,800 volunteers from 36 churches volunteered Saturday at 80 sites across the city. The number of participating churches has increased from 18 in 2016 and four in 2015, CityServe's inaugural year.
Volunteers painted schools and churches, did trailwork in Garden of the Gods and in the Black Forest burn area, and helped sort clothing donations at Arc Thrift Stores.
One group, a collection of people from four different churches, helped harvest greens at the Mountain Springs Church's aquaponic garden. The garden, which was built in June 2016, grows butternut, bibb and romaine lettuce for the church's High Plains Helping Hands food pantry, the Springs Food Pantry and the Eastern Plains Community Pantry. Each month, the garden is able to supply the food pantries with 1,400 heads of lettuce.
"Usually in food pantries, you get pasta, rice and other dried or canned carbohydrates. It's hard to get fresh greens," said Ed Zehner, one of the garden's Green Team point leaders . "A head of fresh lettuce might be something a family hasn't had for a while."
Saturday's volunteers, Zehner said, had the opportunity to learn about the science of aquaponics, engage with the natural environment and potentially find a new venue for community, faith-based service.
The volunteer day was preceded by an ecumenical worship service Friday night. Members of churches from all corners of the city and denominations gathered at First Presbyterian Church downtown for the City Wide Worship, which also featured a speech by the founder of CityServe Portland, Kevin Palau.
Mobolade said Palau commented in his speech on the ethnic diversity of the churches and congregation members present. CityServe Portland, he said, predominately attracts churches in white, suburban neighborhoods. When he looked out at the crowd in Colorado Springs, though, he saw churchgoers of all ethnicities, from members of Venga Tu Reino, a Hispanic church, and a Korean Baptist church to First Presbyterian.
"While we differ in worship style, denomination and ethnicity, the reality is that we love God and this city," said Mobolade. "This is our home and backyard, and we can use our faith to make it a better place."