“I got new shoes, people!” says Maray, 5, whose four siblings had already received shoes and backpacks full of school supplies at the Convoy of Hope Community Event in Wichita, Kan.
Maray’s mother, Candra, is unique in that she is counted twice in our statistics for the day. First, she’s counted as one of more than 5,400 guests of honor, and again as one of more than 1,200 volunteers. Serving her community is so important to her that she’s not willing to let her own need get in the way of volunteering. She arrived early in the morning to help bag some of the 9,901 bags of groceries. After getting her children outfitted for school, she plans to go back to volunteering including staying late to help tear down the event.
“One way of being thankful for this event,” says Candra, mother of five, “is giving back and trying to help.”
Candra isn’t the only guest of honor with a bent towards helping others. Later, I meet Andrew and his wife Jessica who packed up their two, toddler boys and left a steady livelihood in Idaho just two weeks prior to help Andrew’s medically disabled sister while her husband is away serving overseas in the military. Higher than expected moving expenses paired with their five-year-old son starting school left the family looking to the community for help.
“We want to raise our boys to know that if you need help, get help,” shares Andrew. Watching his oldest boy get a fresh haircut, Andrew went on to explain how important it is to him that they also learn to work hard to support their family.
Just as the volunteer stylist makes the last few cuts on the youngest boy’s hair, Andrew asks me if there is information available for job seekers in the community services tent next door. His desire to do right for his family seems as steady as the 90 degree Wichita heat. Now — thinking of my own wife and kids — I reassure Andrew that he’s a good dad, there are people in the community that care for him and things should get better.
Before taking his wife and kids to the next tent, Andrew reaches out and gives me a strong hug. The message is clear to me, “thank you.” I walk away grateful and inspired to serve my family and community with the same passion and creativity as Andrew and Candra.
As I leave the event after a long, satisfying day in the hot sun, something inside my tired mind wants to shout like five-year-old Maray, “I’ve got new passion, people!”
In all, 1,246 volunteers served 5,406 guests of honor with 9,901 bags of groceries, 1,500 pairs of shoes, 1,150 backpacks full of school supplies, 592 haircuts, health screenings, dental work and more.