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COLUMBIA - Local service groups spent their Friday packing a semi truck trailer full of supplies to help people nearly two thousand miles away.

Members of the Columbia Rotary Club and the Mobility Worldwide initiative along with the Rainbow Network Group have been gathering things to benefit rural communities in Nicaragua.

"I started this project some twenty-three years ago and I still love it," said Melvin West, director of the Rainbow Network, a local ministry group. "I'm still supporting it. It's still worth it."

For the last twenty-three years, the Columbia location of Mobility Worldwide has collected the donations it receives throughout the year in order to send them to the Rainbow Network Group to distribute to communities in Nicaragua. 

"When we first began, the rural people were very poor malnourished, not educated, no medical care, no dental care, no decent housing at all," West said.

Twice a year, Mobility Worldwide works with Rainbow Network, for the supply drive. This year members of the Columbia Rotary Club came out to help pack the the supplies. 

"Today it had tires for their four-wheel drive pickups that the doctors drive. It had clothing, a lot of clothing, a lot of shoes. It had medical care. It had sports equipment," West said.

Other items included school desks and school supplies. West says the items are typically local donations, ones that come from the hearts of Mid-Missourians.

"It comes through the little door and goes out the big door is the way I say it," West said. "A lot of good goes out that big door but it has to come in as donations."

As a member of the Columbia South Rotary Club, West was able to help coordinate the joint event Friday morning. For Chris Rigby, president of the Columbia South Rotary Club, it was West himself that really made the service event worth it. 

"Mel is one of our elder statesmen of our club," Rigby said. "He's the founder of Rainbow Network which supports more than 60,000 people in Nicaragua some twenty years ago. He also the founder of the PET Mobilty Workshop here in Columbia. He really is an inspirational figure in the voluntary seed here in Columbia."

According to Rigby, helping out with packing the truck was an easy decision to make for the group's rotarians who are used to volunteer work.

"We have as our byline 'service above self,' and so we really get a lot of fulfillment from going out there and doing hard work both here in Columbia and overseas," Rigby said.

The Columbia Rotary South Club raised nearly $12,000 to help pay for supplies that would go to Nicaragua. With all the support for the biannual event, West said the event gives him many emotions.

"It makes you sleep well. I think when we realize we've done something to help a person in need, a neighbor, even though they're several thousand miles away, they're still our neighbors," West said. "You feel like you've accomplished something good in your life."

The truck carrying the supplies will travel through the United States until it reaches Nicaragua, where Rainbow Network will distribute the supplies.