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story.lead_photo.caption A community member lights a candle in honor of the new year Monday during the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship's Evening of Community and Hope. Photo by Greta Cross / News Tribune.

As the end of 2019 approaches, a group of Jefferson City residents paused to reflect on what has been a challenging year for the community.

A service was held Monday night at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Jefferson City on Northeast Drive, and those who organized the event said they wanted residents of all faiths to join together to offer each other encouragement and support for moving forward into 2020.

Alexis Engelbrecht-Villafane does small group ministry and special services at the church and said Monday's service was a chance to remember how Jefferson City came together to help one another, particularly after the May 22 tornado.

"Even though things are difficult, this isn't the first time things have been difficult so this is a time to celebrate parts of the human spirit that make it beautiful and good and keep hope alive," Engelbrecht-Villafane said.

Looking at 2020, Engelbrecht-Villafane also said they hope to see their church's focus become more widespread and that's being a community of different voices can make a difference, which they did see in many ways following the tornado.

"We are at our best when we work through our differences," Engelbrecht-Villafane said.

Members of the Unitarian Fellowship worked with the Rev. Kimberley Woodruff of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church during the recovery efforts following the tornado. Woodruff spoke at Monday's service and said they saw more than 300 people after the tornado hit.

"Quinn Chapel opened its doors the day after the tornado and didn't have electricity at the time," Woodruff said. "There were folks that sat there with the doors unlocked as people came in. We offered prayer and encouragement, and we offered hope."

On May 23, the donations started coming in, and Woodruff said that while working with various community groups they collaborated to help residents.

"It gave me hope about a Jefferson City that is a community that cares for each other and works as a village to make sure people's needs are met," Woodruff said.

As they look ahead to 2020, Woodruff said, "As long as there is need, we're going to keep on working to fill those needs, and be a presence in this community. We want residents to see Quinn Chapel as a beacon of hope. It takes all people of faith to give hope to the community."

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