Making a Difference in Berlin

Communitas often focuses on serving “the least of these,” but sometimes we interact with very influential people in advancing God’s kingdom.  One memorable example occurred in June in Berlin, Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel met Christine, the founder and director of Serve the City Berlin, one of 25 nonprofits chosen out of hundreds to be recognized in a competition for grants coordinated by the German organization Start Social. 

The competition’s goal is to help German nonprofits grow. STC Berlin’s application requested assistance with marketing. Through multiple elimination rounds, STC Berlin continued to rise in rank, finally being chosen by Start Social to work with two coaches for four months to gain clarity in messaging and increase online visibility to help serve Berlin more effectively. 

Serve the City’s motto is simple, direct and compelling: “Cross the line, serve the city.”  The Communitas team and volunteers serve the homeless, asylum seekers, elderly, disabled, children in need, and victims of abuse. It all began in Berlin in 2011 when Christine started cleaning up a park in her neighborhood.

"I wanted to start serving in my neighborhood to help it grow organically,” Christine said. 

Now more than 500 STC volunteers serve half of the districts in Berlin throughout the year. This global movement started in Brussels in 2005 and has now spread to 65 cities worldwide. The organization gives autonomy to the volunteers in each city so they can build the programming that will work best at each location. For example, STC Berlin initiates “meet ups” and “hang outs” along with monthly one-day projects and larger “action days.” 

Their leadership team has grown from three to twelve in recent years. Melinda and William have been involved since the beginning. Melinda is in charge of networking. 

“Serve the City’s projects offer me a great place to serve and give back to Berlin alongside others from countries around the world,” Melinda said. “STC reminds me that I am part of something much greater than myself.”

Christine agrees, “Serve the City does not need me, but I need Serve the City. It has had a profound impact on me and changed me. I think it’s very healthy for everybody to look away from yourself and do something that’s not just for your friends, or your family—people you would help anyway.  It’s something that has nothing to do with you. There’s a joy that you feel, and you feel like you gained more than you spent.”

Out of the 25 finalist organizations, Chancellor Merkel awarded seven with a monetary prize. Although Serve the City Berlin was not among that number, the team continues to serve “the least of these” among their city’s inhabitants, encouraged by the recognition received from the German government.

“We’re always looking for new ways for STC Berlin to impact the city,” Melinda said. “A quote we often say in STC Berlin is painted on the remains of the Berlin Wall: ‘Many small people, in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the face of the world.’

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