COLUMBIA — Seven years ago, Kevin and Sara Gaines, members at Memorial Baptist Church, Columbia, noticed that several single moms lived in the area.
In the midst of juggling work duties, family relationships and household chores, many of the women had little time or resources left for basic vehicle maintenance.
The Gaines stepped up to lead a host of church volunteers to provide free oil changes twice each year — typically in April or May and in October.
Some women arrived in vehicles without oil or in desperate need of an oil change.
“We targeted single moms because we saw a need. We were at a stage where we felt the need within the community,” Gaines said. “It was just something we both felt we had a heart for…and that we could meet.
“I had heard of this type of ministry…and just happened to check the Internet and contacted a church that was doing it,” he added.
Memorial modeled the first effort on that contact and attracted about 30 women.
The church keeps a database listing of those who have used the serve and sends them a notice when the next one is scheduled. This spring, the volunteer team serviced 72 vehicles in five hours — from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Last fall, they handled more than 80.
A few years ago, the church began offering breakfast for the women to enjoy as they waited for their vehicles.
The ministry requires “a lot of manpower.” About 25 volunteers change oil and filters, check tires, cook, serve or greet guests.
And it relies primarily on church members through Memorial’s missions committee for funding. Several area businesses offer reduced pricing on oil and filters or donate breakfast foods.
While volunteers do not distribute tracts or church material to customers, they watch for opportunities to share the gospel, Gaines emphasized.
At the April event, a young woman called the ministry “a bright spot” in “an otherwise terrible day.” Sara Gaines comforted the woman over the loss of a friend.
“We just want to show Christ’s love and not preach at you,” Gaines said. “I like to do service ministry that has ‘hands.’”