City: Springfield

A Mother’s Story: Hope and smiles came to Emma’s family

On an unseasonably cool day in June, Emma entered a local rodeo arena with her sons Anthony and Gabriel, unsure of what she’d find. They weren’t there to see broncos or bull riders; Emma had heard about an event that could help her overcome the struggles she and her family were facing.

Month after month, the bills would come due. Sometimes she and her husband could make it, but other times they found themselves at a local food bank. Their lives had changed dramatically when they had Anthony. Anthony, who has special needs and is in a wheelchair, has to regularly visit a special doctor whose office is two hours away. Every drive costs the family what few resources they have.

“We can’t do anything else,” says Emma. “For instance, I need to build the access ramp for him [Anthony]. But I can’t do it.”

For those like Emma living in vulnerable communities, life can spiral out of control quickly through no fault of their own. The cushion to absorb unexpected costs is thin at best. Because of that, even small wins can become life-changing experiences. 

For the past 25 years, Convoy of Hope and an army of volunteers has been serving across the United States, and now around the world, through Community Events. These events provide critical services that are often unreachable when money is tight. 

“We bring together churches, service providers, and people from all over the community,” says Convoy of Hope’s Jason Bachman, who led the event that Emma and her family attended. “It creates a platform for existing organizations, who sometimes aren’t even aware of each other, to come together and serve. These events create opportunities for the novice and the expert to come together to serve their cities.”

When Emma and her kids entered the grounds, volunteer greeters welcomed them to each tent. Gabriel bumped along in his stroller as Anthony hurried to grab a new pair of shoes at the Children’s Shoes tent. A volunteer helped him get fitted, and he proudly held up his new sneakers after pulling out the crumpled paper stuffed in the toes. These were new shoes. His shoes. 

Anthony impatiently zipped toward the Kids Zone. He drove his wheelchair to the sloped entrance of a bouncy castle where he was met by a volunteer who obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with. Not to be slowed down, Anthony thrust his body forward. He landed on his hands and knees and stormed the castle. His face exuded pure joy as he jumped around that inflatable castle just like the other kids. With his body in midair, Anthony smiled and shouted for his mom. Emma smiled like any parent, thrilled to see her child so happy.

“Poverty is stressful,” says Bachman. “And I think that our Community Events give people a break from that. On that day, people can let go of their problems, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.”

As Emma and her family walked the grounds, the Health Services tent caught her eye. She noticed representatives from Anthony’s children’s hospital, so she stopped to talk with them. Taking as much time as her kids would allow, she began to craft a plan with the hospital.

Weeks after the event, we caught up with Emma to see how she and her family were doing. As she shared her progress over the phone, pots and pans rattled in the background as she prepared lunch for the kids. “Since the event we’ve been doing good,” she says. “Visiting the [children’s] hospital really helped.” The arrangements she made with the hospital at the Community Event had already saved them hours of driving and extra travel expenses. That connection likely wouldn’t have been made without the Community Event and the volunteers who made it happen … together.

 

*This story originally appeared in issue 15 of the Hope Quarterly which can be read here

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Community Outreach / Field Story

Five Ways to Make this Your Kindest Year Yet

1. Set up a recurring donation, and budget for it.

Find a cause that you’re passionate about! At Convoy of Hope, we offer opportunities for others to help women in developing countries start their own business, feed children that don’t have access to regular nutritious meals, respond to disasters around the world, support communities across the United  States, and offer opportunities to the working poor. Donating to an organization you care about doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Determine a budget and stick to it. Every donation — no matter how large or small — can make a huge difference. Through Convoy of Hope, just $10 can feed a child in need for an entire month.

2. Volunteer!

Whether you live in a big city or a small town, there are needs in your community. Contact your local U.S. Chamber of Commerce to learn how you can get involved with nearby organizations. Or visit your favorite charity’s website, to find out how you can help. At Convoy of Hope, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer at one of our Community Events. We also offer the chance to volunteer at our World Distribution Center in Springfield, Missouri, every Tuesday night.* Visit convoy.org/get-involved to learn more. 

3. Buy from brands that give back. 

When you go to the store, how do you choose which brands to buy? Taste? Price? Packaging? What about the brand’s impact on the needs of the world? Convoy of Hope has great corporate partners that are helping us spread hope. By shopping their stores or buying their products, you can help support us! Brands like Hello Bello, Hormel Foods, and Home Depot are just a few that help us give back to those in need. You can learn more about how your favorite brands give back by visiting their websites.

4. Hunt for kind opportunities.

You can find ways to show kindness every day. You just have to keep an eye out for them! Hold the door open for someone, let another driver into your lane in traffic, or buy someone’s meal at a restaurant — each day brings you new opportunities to show kindness to those around you. Today and every day, do the next kind thing in front of you. 

5. Build a kindness team.

Challenge your friends, family, or coworkers to join you in your kindness crusade! Invite someone to volunteer with you or see who can do the most acts of kindness for a month. When you encourage others to join you in spreading kindness, your reach extends even further! 

 

*These events are on a break until January 21, 2020.

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Inspiration / Join the Convoy / Volunteering

Thank You for 25 Years of Hope: A Letter from Convoy of Hope President Hal Donaldson

Since 1994, your generosity has propelled our teams into new places, in new ways, and for new purposes. Because of you, children and families around the world experience life-transforming acts of kindness.

You are the grade-school girl in California who set up a lemonade stand and gave all her proceeds to Convoy of Hope. 

You are the professional football player and his wife who, in the aftermath of a major hurricane, asked their network to raise funds. 

You are the church and business leaders who rally your teams to give sacrificially so others can be helped through Convoy of Hope. 

You are the individuals and families who give every month so we can feed the hungry and serve the impoverished and suffering.

Without you, our trucks would stop rolling. The meals would never arrive. The relief would disappear. The hope would stop flowing. 

With you, we’re making a difference that none of us could accomplish on our own.

Convoy of Hope exists to change lives through kindness. Whenever you give, volunteer, advocate, or donate for the benefit of the needy, something changes. When you offer kindness, you create a movement that continues to grow bigger. Convoy of Hope has always been more than the sum of its parts, and you are one of those parts.

So thank you for letting kindness guide your heart, your hands, your words, your finances, and your volunteer hours. You are part of the compassion movement. 

Thank you for supporting Convoy of Hope over the past 25 years. We look forward to partnering with you in 2020 and beyond! 

 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / From the Founders

Earth-Shaking Hope in Haiti

In early 2010, I was working for Convoy of Hope in Haiti. Things were normal. I was finishing up hosting guests from the U.S. and waiting for a Field Team to arrive two days later. But late that afternoon, as I stood on the balcony of a friend’s home, everything changed. 

My memories of the January 12 earthquake are ones that will always be with me. I’ll never forget the sound of moving earth and crashing buildings. Of mothers wailing in the street. Of the look on peoples’ faces as they tried to process what was happening. 

Although my assignment at Convoy of Hope was not for Disaster Services, I found myself at ground zero for one of the largest natural disasters to hit the Western Hemisphere. I pushed through my mental haze and began working with our partners in Haiti to assess the situation, determine food inventory, and identify a base of operations for in Port-au-Prince. 

Thankfully, within 48 hours of the shaking, I was welcomed by the sight of my Convoy of Hope colleagues crossing the tarmac of the airport. They brought a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt since the ordeal began. I was eager to step out of the way and place the reins of the response in their very capable hands. 

We all witnessed the sadness and desperation that took hold throughout the island in the days and weeks that followed. It got so bad that many families were forced to place the lifeless bodies of their loved in the street to be collected and placed in mass graves. 

But we also saw the amazing power of hope. A strength rose up in the Haitian people, who had already endured so much, and they picked themselves up and moved into their new “normal.” The overwhelming global response to the calamity showed them that they weren’t ignored or forgotten. They would make it.

When the earthquake struck, Convoy of Hope and our partners were already invested and committed to Haiti and were feeding more than 13,000 kids every school day. The overwhelming need after the earthquake propelled us forward and forced us to fast track our plans in the country. In 2019, we are feeding more than 90,000 children in Haiti. 

Tragedies don’t often give people the chance to do anything but survive. That’s why we hope to look beyond the immediacy of a disaster and toward a day when survivors can participate in the rebuilding of their communities. That’s what Haiti has been for us. We were honored to come alongside Haitians and serve when they needed us most. But we’re most proud of when they came back alongside us as participants … as partners on Haiti’s journey. 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Children's Feeding / Disaster Services / Field Story

Long-Term Hope: Convoy of Hope Community Event Connections

What started with one pick-up truck filled with groceries and a desire to serve families in need has transformed into hundreds of Convoy of Hope Community Events that have taken place across the nation. 

Over the past 25 years, Convoy of Hope has served more than 2 million Guests of Honor at more than 1,200 Community Events. Guests of Honor have their immediate needs met with bags of groceries or a new pair of shoes, but we don’t stop there. We also provide them with long-term solutions that can help them thrive. We do that by connecting them to job and career services, community services, health services, veterans services, or other organizations, such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

The desired outcome for each event is to provide sustainable solutions that help address the deeper-rooted issues and concerns in a community. Our “one-stop shop” connects them with the opportunities they need to help them get to the next step and see the possibilities they couldn’t before. 

We like to say Guests of Honor receive a “hand up,” not a handout, at a Community Event. 

Take Tomasa. She attended a Community Event we held in Fort Worth in 2017 and picked up a Garden in a Bag, which contained vegetable and flower seeds. She planted the seeds and now has a flourishing garden that takes over part of her backyard. Tomasa came back to the Fort Worth Community Event in 2019 to get more seeds and to see how she could start a community garden in her neighborhood.

Or take Darcy. She’s an unemployed single mom with three children living at home. She attended the Fort Worth event this year and went straight to the Job and Career Services tent. There, she found an organization that would pay for her to go back to school to get her license as a certified nursing assistant. She signed up for school and filled out an application for a job. She left feeling excited about what her future holds. 

These are just two examples of what Community Events are all about. Guests of Honor leave with a sense of empowerment and the ability to move beyond obstacles and tough circumstances in their life. 

To learn more about Community Events, visit convoyofhope.org/communityevents.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Community Outreach