With 6,000 honored guests expected and some 2,000 volunteers required, Convoy of Hope really boils down to the three F’s: Faith, Feet and Finance.
Convoy of Hope says it will provide about $1 million worth of goods and services to guests at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center on Saturday. The event is free and open to the public, starting at 10 a.m.
“It’s more than a big day of handout,” said Chad Townsley, pastor of Calvary Church in O’Fallon and lead volunteer of church relations. “We want it to be a leg up. Not just another fly-in, fly-out” event, but one with medical services and job and career help as well as free groceries, children’s shoes and more.
“Hopefully will be a game-changing day for some of these families and these young people.”
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Convoy of Hope is faith-based and “(we) certainly have a strong emphasis on prayer,” says Townsley. As of earlier this week, Convoy of Hope had 100 Southern Illinois churches participating in the event.
It is the second Convoy of Hope for Don Andreasen, lead pastor at O’Fallon Assembly of God, and for several other volunteers. The first was held in O’Fallon.
It’s more than a big day of handout. We want it to be a leg up. Not just another fly-in, fly-out” event, but one with medical services and job and career help as well as free groceries, children’s shoes and more.
Chad Townsley, pastor of Calvary Church in O’Fallon
Andreasen, also the local coordinator for Convoy of Hope, expects to flit from one area to the next as long as the event lasts.
“I might talk to a mother, did they know we have a whole tent with one thousand school backpacks?” said Andreasen. “Are you aware that we have the National Breast Cancer (screening) tent?”
Beyond the game-changing practical gifts of food and medical screenings will be a big dose of prayer and hope, volunteers say.
Some of that hope may come in a 5-by-7-inch photograph, says volunteer Laura Shanks, of St. Micheal’s Episcopal Church in O’Fallon.
“Family photos are a luxury for a family of any income,” said Shanks, who is leading a team of professional photographers volunteering by taking family portraits at the event.
“Holding all of you in your hand at once, being able to see the love you have for your family at that moment ... we’re hoping for happy tears,” she said.
Shanks is prepared to print out 700 of the family portraits so guests can take the portrait home, but should the printers fail then they are ready to provide digital copies.
Families come in all forms, Townsley said, with guests bringing their grandchildren or nieces and nephews. Single people of all ages are welcome, too, he said.
Andreasen said the team offered the event to a couple of cities, and was turned down.
“Out of the blue, this East St. Louis opportunity opened up, and it opened up as wide as to where a semi truck could go through it,” he said.
Churches from across Southern Illinois and into Missouri will have volunteers present Saturday, and have pledged to follow up with the guests.
“People were so overwhelmed by the generosity,” he said of the event two years ago in O’Fallon. “Testimonies were all positive, about how kind the ministry was to them.”
“What’s amazing is this is pulling together from the faith community,” Townsley said, after admitting “there can regrettably be a lot of ... separation.
“In the church world, there’s a lot of different interpretations or expressions or applications of what faith looks like,” he said. “What’s amazing to see what this does for the church, the capital-C Church ... people come together to realize some of the stuff isn’t worth quarreling over.”
How to volunteer
- A volunteer rally will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center at 101 Jackie Joyner Kersee Circle in East Saint Louis, IL 62204. East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks and Joyner-Kersee are expected at the hour-long rally.
- Volunteers are asked to register ahead of the rally by going online to https://www.convoyofhope.org/cohregister/