Since the very beginning, Convoy of Hope has been helping people reach out to their communities through acts of compassion. In Convoy’s first year, we held small-scale Community Events called Care Days. It started with simple block parties that served 200 to 400 guests. However, our Community Event model changed almost overnight.
About a year later, a ministry offered to partner with Convoy of Hope at a couple of large community events in Los Angeles and San Francisco by providing multiple truck loads of food. The plan was to conduct these events at a major sports stadium and have enough resources to serve thousands of guests at each location.
We jumped at the opportunity. It was a leap of faith, though, as we’d never tried to do something this big or complicated before. There was no manual for us to look at. It would all need to be developed.
We began making lots of road trips to meet with community and church leaders. Everyone was excited to be involved. But after meeting with local leaders, it didn’t take us long to see a problem with the “big stadium” model. How were people in need supposed to cross a major city to get to the stadium? We knew many of the people who would want to come never left their own neighborhoods due to a lack of resources or fear about crime and gangs.
Instead of doing one major event in Los Angeles, we decided to do three events that could be placed within the areas of greatest need. However, to fit within the plans already in motion with our partner, all three events had to take place on the same day — Watts was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., South Central Los Angeles at 1 p.m., and East Los Angeles at 4 p.m.
Our day began at about 4 a.m. in Watts well before sunrise. There was tremendous excitement in the air as we set up. When the gates opened, many of our Guests of Honor were solemn, but there was a new hope in their eyes by the time they left. We could see their faces transform before our very eyes. That’s when we knew we were on to something.
Our day ended around midnight. Though we were all exhausted, we were thrilled by what we’d experienced. We had served approximately 14,000 guests and mobilized more than 200 volunteers in three different communities in just one day.
Two weeks later, we led two events in San Francisco and one in Oakland, serving another 12,000 guests. We did 10 more of these events by the end of the year and have continued to do them to this day.
Convoy has served more than 2 million Guests of Honor through more than 1,200 Community Events across the United States and in many cities around the world. These events have evolved over the years; we’ve added components like health services, haircuts, and family portraits. However, the basics of the events have not changed — we’re mobilizing communities to serve their neighbors in need, giving help and hope to all that come.