Tag: Community Events

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

Care Days to Community Events: The story of Convoy of Hope’s First Community Event

Since the very beginning, Convoy of Hope has been helping people reach out to their communities through acts of compassion. In Convoy’s first year, we held small-scale Community Events called Care Days. It started with simple block parties that served 200 to 400 guests. However, our Community Event model changed almost overnight. 

About a year later, a ministry offered to partner with Convoy of Hope at a couple of large community events in Los Angeles and San Francisco by providing multiple truck loads of food. The plan was to conduct these events at a major sports stadium and have enough resources to serve thousands of guests at each location. 

We jumped at the opportunity. It was a leap of faith, though, as we’d never tried to do something this big or complicated before. There was no manual for us to look at. It would all need to be developed.

We began making lots of road trips to meet with community and church leaders. Everyone was excited to be involved. But after meeting with local leaders, it didn’t take us long to see a problem with the “big stadium” model. How were people in need supposed to cross a major city to get to the stadium? We knew many of the people who would want to come never left their own neighborhoods due to a lack of resources or fear about crime and gangs. 

Instead of doing one major event in Los Angeles, we decided to do three events that could be placed within the areas of greatest need. However, to fit within the plans already in motion with our partner, all three events had to take place on the same day — Watts was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., South Central Los Angeles at 1 p.m., and East Los Angeles at 4 p.m.

Our day began at about 4 a.m. in Watts well before sunrise. There was tremendous excitement in the air as we set up. When the gates opened, many of our Guests of Honor were solemn, but there was a new hope in their eyes by the time they left. We could see their faces transform before our very eyes. That’s when we knew we were on to something.

Our day ended around midnight. Though we were all exhausted, we were thrilled by what we’d experienced. We had served approximately 14,000 guests and mobilized more than 200 volunteers in three different communities in just one day.

Two weeks later, we led two events in San Francisco and one in Oakland, serving another 12,000 guests. We did 10 more of these events by the end of the year and have continued to do them to this day. 

Convoy has served more than 2 million Guests of Honor through more than 1,200 Community Events across the United States and in many cities around the world. These events have evolved over the years; we’ve added components like health services, haircuts, and family portraits. However, the basics of the events have not changed — we’re mobilizing communities to serve their neighbors in need, giving help and hope to all that come.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Community Outreach

Hope in Slovakia

The Roma people are one of the largest ethnic minorities in the world who have no home country. Spread throughout Europe, their reputation and history have brought significant prejudice and abuse upon them.

“They have an intensely private culture and usually oppose help from outside their community,” says Michael McNamee, former Regional Director of Convoy of Hope Europe.

The Roma live in separate settlements outside of towns, many of which have no power, running water, or even weather-proofed homes. Entire families live in shantys — their homes consisting of rotting plywood, collapsed roofs, and walls with gaping holes. And yet, families with little children live there in the middle of the cold Slovak winters.

Slovakia has one of the highest Roma populations around the world. One settlement, outside of Vtackovce, held just over 1,000 people living in very rough conditions. “When some teams came … to work in the community,” Michael remembers, “we would sometimes send their medical people … to check on the [Roma] villagers, but there was still a significant resistance on their part.”

In 2015, Convoy of Hope Europe decided to host a Community Event in Vtackovce, Slovakia, to try and build relationships with the community. The event was in April, the snow was melting, and flowers began to appear in fields all over the mountains. Despite the hilly terrain, Convoy had medical tents, food distribution, games for the children, face-painting, live music — the works. Guests of Honor had tickets to come through the tents at predetermined times to avoid overwhelming the different stations.

Thanks to our wonderful volunteers and partners, it went off without a hitch. Most every one of the 1,000 people living in the camps attended. Convoy of Hope Europe has held several Community Events throughout Slovakia, and each of them have been incredibly successful.

“Most of society always keeps them at a distance,” says Aaron Davis, a Convoy of Hope team member. “Kind gestures and smiles crossed cultural barriers into their hearts.”

Seeing the incredible transformation that took place in so many families that day makes us at Convoy so grateful that we were able to be a part. And that is all we are — part of a movement of compassion.

 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope

Volunteering with Convoy of Hope

Volunteers are at the heart of everything Convoy of Hope does. From bagging groceries for Community Events around the country to removing debris after a devastating storm, Convoy of Hope volunteers walk hand in hand with us to help those in need.

We asked a few of our wonderful volunteers to share why they’re passionate about bringing help and hope to impoverished, hungry, and hurting people around the world.

Linda McCalister, a Convoy of Hope volunteer, has served as a community event lead volunteer for two years, volunteers at Hands of Hope, and serves with Convoy:Women. When asked why she would encourage someone to volunteer with Convoy, she says, “You will make some new friends, learn new things, and join an organization that opens the door to hope for thousands — if not millions — of people. It will change your life.”

COMMUNITY EVENTS

At Convoy of Hope Community Events, guests receive free groceries, health screenings, haircuts, career services, and much more. Linda recalls a story from one event of a mother and her young daughter who had walked two miles to a local Community Event so they could receive shoes.

“All she had to wear were plastic shoes that wore blisters on her feet to the point she could not even try on the [new] shoes. The volunteer found the right shoes for the little girl and bandaged her blisters. Then they connected her with someone who gave them a ride home! Something so small that meant so much.”

In 2018, Communities Events served more than 96,000 Guests of Honor at 62 community events in 48 cities. These events would not have been possible without the nearly 28,000 volunteers who partners with Convoy of Hope.

HANDS OF HOPE

On Tuesday nights, Convoy of Hope opens the doors of our World Distribution Center in Springfield, Missouri, and welcomes volunteers in for a weekly volunteer opportunity called Hands of Hope. Volunteers help sort, pack, count, and label items that are distributed throughout the world.

“It’s a great opportunity to serve and provide others in the local community and around the world with the essential items they might not have been able to get,” says Connor Louthan, a lead Hands of Hope volunteer.

In 2018, Hands of Hope partnered with more than 5,500 volunteers who invested more than 12,500 hours during the year.

FIELD TEAMS

Gerald Norz, another Convoy of Hope volunteer, has served on multiple Field Teams during the past five years. He loves working with partners in the field, saying one of his most memorable experiences volunteering with Convoy is, “seeing the children waving as we arrived at the site in Tanzania … such a great welcome and such warm smiles.”

Eighty-two Field Teams — comprised of more than 1,000 volunteers — served in 11 countries around the world in 2018. These teams serve people through projects and interaction connected to Convoy’s Children’s Feeding and Agriculture programs.

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Community Events, Field Teams, and Hands of Hope are just three of several volunteer opportunities with Convoy of Hope. Whether it’s driving a Convoy of Hope truck, answering phones, or deploying with our Disaster Services team, every volunteer makes a difference in a person’s life through the service they provide. In 2018, we had more than 57,000 volunteers serve domestically and internationally. We are so thankful for each person who serves with their heart and their time! Visit convoyofhope.org/volunteer to learn more about how you can volunteer at Convoy of Hope.

 

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