The last time Columbia service clubs, such as the Optimists, Kiwanis and Cosmopolitan International, among others, worked together on a major project was probably in the 1960s.
That changed on Saturday when all of these groups joined in a park cleanup effort at Cosmo Park. The effort of about 50 volunteers concentrated on different areas of the park in which to collect small waste.
This included a playground, the skate park and in the parking lots near the sports fields. Volunteers also worked to disinfect playground equipment.
After the cleanup, attendees gathered for a moment of camaraderie, an ice cream dinner and a hot dog at the Downtown Optimist Clubhouse on Grand Avenue.
It was the Colombian branch of Cosmopolitan International that helped create Cosmo Park, which before 1947 was the location of the city’s municipal airport. The Cosmopolitan Club also helped found what became Job Point.
The mutual effort began out of state, said Rick McKernan of the Columbia Downtown Optimist Club, who helped organize the Saturday service club partnership.
International presidents meet annually at the Rose Bowl, he said.
“They all said, ‘We should do something together,'” McKernan said.
Unfortunately, this decision did not trickle down to local organizations, where service efforts would likely have taken place in 2021.
“All of our clubs are doing great things for the community. I don’t think you can find a better example of us all having the same mission. We’re just doing it in different directions,” McKernan said.
At a meeting in October with Optimist International President Patsy Garner, Downtown Optimists first heard about the Collaborative Service Project plan.
“I called Rotary and all the other places and nobody else had heard of it,” McKernan said. “We got the ball rolling.”
Saturday’s service project gave members of each of the organizations, which also included the Rotary and Lions clubs of Columbia, the chance to meet.
“It’s kind of a collective effort to try to get to know each other better and the synergy that we can have. We can accomplish more things (together),” McKernan said, adding that there is hope to create a centralized contact page. for service clubs.
“Everyone is doing a bit of work, but collectively we could move a mountain.”
Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general topics for the Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.