Tag: Community Events

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

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

Planes, Trains, and Semi Trucks: The Convoy of Hope team that really delivers

Twenty-five years ago, Convoy of Hope was just a few people with a desire to help others and a pickup truck full of groceries. Today, Convoy of Hope’s famous semitrailers drive hundreds of thousands of miles across the country each year, and we ship food and supplies to more than a dozen countries around the world. Growth like that takes a lot of heart, faith, and hard work by our Supply Chain team.

In the early days of Convoy of Hope, we didn’t know a lot about managing and coordinating facility operations and supplies. We had to learn as we went. We learned how to manage 10,000 square feet of leased warehouse space and a few trucks. When we moved into our 300,000 square foot World Distribution Center, we found ourselves in a whole new playing field.

We continued to learn, and the team grew. Our original crew of one or two people has grown into our current Supply Chain team of 21. They take care of the food, water, and supplies we give out and make sure it all gets to people in need. 

This year, Ginger attended a Convoy of Hope Community Event in Cleveland, Ohio. She went because she needed shoes for her children, but found so much more. “If you have a need for one thing, probably you have a need for two or three other things,” Ginger said. “I really appreciate it.” Those shoes and groceries would never have made it to Ginger and her family without the help of the Supply Chain staff who acquired the goods, packaged them, and delivered them to Cleveland.

Thanks to incredible partners and supporters, Convoy of Hope is bringing in and sending out more product than ever before. In the last 10 years, our yearly Gift-in-Kind (GIK) has increased by nearly $100 million. 

Over the years, our Supply Chain team has fine-tuned their processes and implemented new systems to increase efficiency and make it possible to serve more and more people. They’ve even received awards for their work, such as High Jump’s Customer Innovation Award for Stand-Out Business Benefits in 2018.

Convoy of Hope has served millions of people in the last 25 years and distributed more than $1 billion worth of food and supplies. That would never have been possible without the incredible men and women who work each day to make sure the hope our partners and supporters provide gets to the people who need it most. 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Staff Spotlight

How Hurricane Katrina Changed Everything

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast and decimated everything in its path, everything changed. For our nation, seldom before had we seen such devastation — streets became rivers, homes were washed away, and more than 1,000 people lost their lives. The way groups responded to disasters changed everywhere, too, and that included Convoy of Hope.

As Katrina gained intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, it was clear the storm would be bad. But no one expected the wide-reaching damage Katrina would inflict. The morning after the hurricane made landfall, Convoy of Hope employees arrived at headquarters to find every phone ringing off their hooks. Convoy was a much smaller organization in 2005, with a staff of only 50 people. It was clear that this response was an “all-hands on deck” situation. 

Family and friends of staff members arrived to help, and phone banks were set up on folding tables in every available space. Volunteers answered phone calls all day, every day, for weeks. Calls came in from volunteers, donors, people needing help, churches asking for assistance, and even those in search of lost relatives.The answering machine crashed immediately, leading us to take messages on paper and run them around the building to the right person.

Staff from across departments were deployed to Mississippi and Louisiana to assist our two-person Disaster Services team. Before this time, we had never had more than one point of distribution (POD) running at a time. Now, we had several scattered throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

This response changed Convoy of Hope in fundamental ways. Systematically, Convoy of Hope was recreated. Longtime Convoy staff member Randy Rich reflected on a time during the response when the team took a moment from the hustle and bustle. “We sat down and reinvented Convoy on a whiteboard,” he said. “The team updated processes for disaster response and developed additional roles that new staff or volunteers would fill.”

As our disaster response team grew, so did our ability to help others. Our response to Hurricane Katrina lasted for two years. Nearly 1,000 truckloads of relief supplies were delivered and distributed to families in need. For the next four years, we held Community Events across the Gulf Coast, specifically helping areas affected by Katrina. 

In our 25 years of existence, Convoy of Hope has responded to more than 400 disasters around the world. The people we met and the lessons we learned during Katrina redefined the way we would respond to disasters from then on. But the one thing that has never changed is the incredible importance of kindness and support from people like you. We couldn’t have served so many without the thousands of phone calls, mass amounts of volunteers, and incredible donors that saw those in need and offered their help.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Disaster Services / Program Updates / Volunteering

Treating others as a Guest of Honor

Convoy of Hope began hosting Community Events 25 years ago. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of Guests of Honor — from New York to Hawaii, Washington to Florida, and everywhere in between — in more than 1,200 cities in the United States. 

Guests of Honor are our neighbors, co-workers, the people we see at church each Sunday, the grocery check-out clerk, or the person asking for help on the corner. They are the families who need a hand-up during difficult times, individuals living on the fringes of poverty, and those who are barely making it paycheck to paycheck. They are people we all know and love and want to help. 

They are people like Carly. It had already been a long day for Carly before she attended the Wichita Convoy of Hope Community Event with her family. She’d worked eight hours at one job; after the event, she would be going to her second job. 

Carly and her family have attended the Community Event for four years in a row. She and her kids go to every area: haircuts, shoes, Kids Zone to receiving backpacks, and groceries at the end. The haircuts are particularly of value. The only time Carly’s daughters receive haircuts are when they attend Community Events.

When asked why she keeps returning, she says, “Convoy is one of the most understanding and respectful organizations. They treat you like a person. Like you’re just another person that deserves something. They don’t look down on you. They don’t treat you different. They don’t talk to you like you’re a 5-year old kid. You don’t get that. People in our situations don’t get that.” 

Her entire family feels connected to the event. In fact, her oldest daughter decided to be a volunteer this year. “We’re hoping by next year, we won’t need the services, and then we can all come back and volunteer,” Carly says. “They’ve helped us, so we try to give back if we can.”  

Carly and her family are striving to be like the Camposes — Guests of Honor who went to their first event several years ago when they were having a tough time. The flyer they received highlighted free services that they needed.

“When I came to the Convoy of Hope event, and every five or six meters is one person, smiling and saying, ‘Welcome. You’ve been welcome. God bless you.’ Wow. This is what I needed,” said Roberto Campos. “I believe the people received me and this changed my life.” 

Since then, the entire Campos family has volunteered at their local Community Event for five consecutive years. Coming full circle from receiving to giving back — showing other Guests of Honor in their community the same level of dignity and respect they were shown. 

Since 1994, Convoy of Hope Community Events have served more than 2 million Guests of Honor around the United States — people like Carly and the Camposes — who simply need hope in a time of need. To learn more about Community Events, visit convoyofhope.org/events

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Community Outreach / Field Story / Inspiration / Join the Convoy / Volunteering