City: Los Angeles

Hope comes to Watts

Just days before Convoy of Hope Los Angeles, very few believed it was actually going to happen. Residents of the Watts community have often been over promised and under delivered and skepticism ran rampant. Though in the face of adversity, hope came to Watts on December 2, 2017.

Hope arrives 

When the reality that this event was — in fact — going to happen hit, hope and excitement filled the community.

“I was driving down the street, on my way to Convoy and these big, monster Convoy of Hope trucks drove right by me,” said Julian Toriz, LA native and Kids Zone Leader for the event. “I’m like ‘oh my goodness!’ Rolling deep, 3 big trucks — boom, boom, boom. I got out my camera. I’m trying to drive and I’m like ‘I got to document this’.”

More than 8,400 Guests of Honor attended the event that day. They received free groceries, shoes, haircuts, and health services. The local team that worked with Convoy of Hope to make the event a reality was amazed at the impact on the community.

Overcoming challenges

The Watts neighborhood of South Central LA is an area of high poverty and crime. The 2010 census revealed that 35.9% of South Central LA live below the poverty line — more than double the U.S. rate of 14.1%. Watts is home to 13 known gangs and four of the largest housing projects in all of LA – all in a two square mile area.

A large step for the Convoy of Hope team in making this event a reality was meeting with and getting the approval of the Watts Gang Task Force to establish a Day of Peace. According to Convoy of Hope Signature Events Director Steve Pulis, not only did this create an opportunity for the community to attend the event without fear of violence, but it established the event as a positive opportunity to help the community.

“When that group came on board and got behind it, we had more than their permission,” Pulis said. “We got the word out among not only gangs, but the entire community – this event is positive, it’s here to help and the gangs are good with it. It has everyone’s support.”

The event took place in Ted Watkins Memorial Park. This is a special place to Convoy of Hope as it was the site of the first Community Event in 1995, only a few years before the park was closed due to violence at a few large park events. The park was closed to large events for 20 years, until the Convoy of Hope event in 2017.

A day of miracles

Convoy of Hope’s Community Events are only possible through the support of volunteers from within the community and its surrounding areas. For most Community Events, the Convoy of Hope team aims to get between 1,200 and 2,000 volunteers. However, by the day of the Watts event there were only 400 volunteers registered and only 303 actually came.

Even with the low volunteer attendance, the event ran smoothly and every Guest of Honor was able to be served.

“It’s a miracle that we didn’t have any issues,” Pulis said. “People can complain anywhere. You can get in too long of a line at the check out of any store and you’re gonna have someone upset. Nothing here.”

Local team member and long-time Watts resident Cornell Ward referenced the biblical story of The Feeding of the 5,000 — in which Jesus feeds 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish — and said “I know what it feels like.”

Hope continues

Convoy of Hope is grateful for the opportunity to bring some hope to South Central LA, but the work is not done yet. Convoy of Hope has already planned to return to LA for another Community Event on December 1, 2018.

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Community Outreach / Field Story / Volunteering

Remembering Watts

One of Convoy of Hope’s first community outreaches took place in Watts, Calif., in 1995. That day, thousands of honored guests gathered to receive groceries and to hear local musicians perform on a makeshift stage.

Tears came to my eyes that day as I watched hurting families descend on a neighborhood park—just so they could have something to eat. I stood at the entrance and welcomed guests … and listened to their stories. I was struck by the reality that these families were not homeless or unemployed. Instead they worked full-time jobs and ensured their children attended school.

That day our eyes were opened to the plight of working poor families, who typically don’t have access to many social services. They struggle each week to put food on the table and clothing on their children. Day-to-day they don’t know if they’ll have enough gas to get to work or enough soap to do their laundry.

For nearly 20 years now, Convoy of Hope has served these families by providing groceries, medical and dental screenings, job fairs, haircuts, shoes, clothing, and more. In the last few years we have added family portraits, and, through a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, began providing free screenings and mammograms.

To date, hundreds of thousands of guests across the United States and Europe have received much-needed help through the united efforts of churches, businesses, civic organizations and local government. And hundreds of thousands of volunteers have given of their time to distribute millions of dollars in assistance. Together they have put smiles on the faces of families who just needed to know someone cares.

But please know none of this would have been possible without friends like you who have given faithfully so others can receive real help and experience God’s love. Thank you for caring and giving.

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Community Outreach / From the Founders
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Partner Spotlight | A look at the partners who help us bring hope.

HopeMobWhen generous strangers unite.

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