More than 50 central San Joaquin Valley churches and organizations are coming together to to provide free groceries, health, job and social services as well as spiritual hope to nearly 15,000 needy people.
About 2,500 volunteers are expected for the Convoy Fresno event, scheduled 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Fresno Fairgrounds, 1121 S. Chance Ave.
Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit organization in Springfield, Mo., rallied the local churches and groups to put on the event. Convoy of Hope holds about 50 outreaches each year in the United States. It previously held an outreach in Fresno in 2009, where about 11,000 people received groceries and other services at Edison Computech.
This year, people can receive groceries, health and dental services, workforce development help, haircuts, photo sittings for family portraits and lunch. It's all free. There also will be a kids/family zone with inflatables and games.
Bethany von Steinbergs, Convoy Fresno co-coordinator with husband Jed, says the outreach is designed to offer people a day "free of poverty." The couple also are community care specialists at Peoples Church, the host church for Convoy Fresno.
"It's a trying time in our city and also in our country and world," she says. "The most important thing that people need is not a handout; they need hope.
"Our goal is to provide a day of hope. People need hope. If we can come together, we can provide it. It's powerful when people work together."
People also will have an opportunity for prayer support, upon request, and will be given information on how to connect with local churches and ministries.
Volunteers are being trained to address people at the outreach as "guests of honor" — out of respect for them.
"It's the idea of treating everyone with value and respect — and that they will be loved unconditionally, regardless of age, race, culture, physical appearance or spiritual condition," von Steinbergs says.
"Our countenance and action should express the love of Jesus Christ."
Shane Ham, an associate pastor at NorthPointe Community Church in northwest Fresno, says it is important that churches and organizations come together to address the physical and spiritual needs of the poor.
"When people come together for an outreach of this magnitude, the ripple effect is tremendous," he says.
"It captures the imagination of those who might otherwise be unresponsive. It demonstrates our greatest potential to effectively serve the underserved and love in Christ's name."
Details: fresno.convoyofhope.org or (559) 298-8001.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.