In Las Vegas, Nev., thousands of guests of honor lined the entry points of Convoy of Hope’s 1,000th community event. Distant mountains served as a backdrop under sunny skies as volunteers smiled, laughed and warmly ushered each guest of honor onto the site — the first thousand receiving a Walmart gift card as part of the 1000th celebration.
“Some of the guests camped out the night before to ensure they were among the first in line,” says Michael Redmon, vice president of community outreaches. “Among our guests were the working poor, single moms living on the fringes of poverty, and families who are still reeling from the hit the local economy took several years ago.”
Guests of honor received haircuts, family portraits, shoes, groceries, free health services and more, but there were some additional surprises for the 1000th celebration. Guests also received a traditional meal under a big top tent that included warm turkey, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, green beans and cranberries. The first 2,000 guests also received a Thanksgiving turkey.
“It’s a huge blessing,” said Vivian Hansen, who attended the event with her husband and four children. “We came for a turkey, but got so much more.”
The Hansens were among five families who received a special surprise that included a gift basket that overflowed with stuffed animals, games and gift cards for services similar to those offered at the event including a Walmart gift card. For a working-poor family like the Hansens, it was truly a memorable day. Their eyes filled with tears as they were given the unexpected basket, that they say will help them through the holidays.
According to Vivian she and her husband, Justin, work full-time jobs, but it’s a struggle to make ends meet. They have four children of their own and have assumed guardianship for another child, as well. “We won’t let anybody go hungry,” says Justin, “even if we might not have a lot to give.”
Like the Hansens, many working-poor families in Las Vegas struggle to get by.
In the haircut tent Tracy talked of her years working in the cotton fields, then as a school bus driver, but is now currently unemployed. “I was used to make money,” she said. “Now I can’t even take care of myself.”
Tracy says the outreach was a godsend. “I’m just so thankful,” she says as she showed off her new haircut.
Nearly 1,700 volunteers served more than 7,000 guests of honor at the event, which was the largest community event of the year.
Kimberly, a volunteer hairstylist, couldn’t help but smile as she served guest after guest. “It’s just nice to make people feel good,” she said, as she joyfully cut the hair of an elderly guest.
Nearly two million guests of honor have been served at Convoy of Hope community events across the country and abroad since the organization was founded in 1994.
“To see these local churches, organizations and volunteers reach into their communities is amazing,” adds Redmon.
As a volunteer helped the Hansen family carry groceries and their basket to their van, they embraced the volunteer with hugs and gave thanks.
“This has made our year!” said Justin punctuating the event and possibly speaking on behalf of the thousands of guests of honor who came seeking help and hope.