Organizers are gearing up for the One Day of Hope event, set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Coffee County Fairgrounds in Manchester.
The event, in its seventh year, provides necessities and services to individuals in need.
“People usually start lining up before 9 a.m.,” said board member Judy Jenkins. “The event is being held at the fairgrounds, and every inch is being used; we have tents set up, and we are using the buildings and the food courts.”
Nearly 3,000 visitors attended the event last year, and organizers hope for even a bigger turnout this year, said Jenkins.
One Day of Hope will provide various items and services, including groceries, clothing and family portraits.
Free haircuts, medical and dental screenings, and job and career services will also be provided.
Visitors may also enjoy free lunch.
“The services are almost endless,” Jenkins said. “The clothing we’ll provide this year is different because we realized that a lot of organizations give away free clothing. We wanted to specialize in men’s work boots and work clothing, women’s shoes, children’s shoes and men’s shoes.”
Winter coats of all sizes will also be offered.
Each visitor will receive a hygiene bag consisting of shampoo, deodorant, razors, toothpaste, toothbrush and soap, said Jenkins.
“These are things we need monthly,” Jenkins said. “One Day of Hope recognizes that one day will not change your life forever, but we want to display community love to our neighbors who are not as fortunate as others.”
In addition to the free lunch during the event, guests will be offered food items to take home.
‘We are going to provide sacks of food – some cans and food in boxes,” Jenkins said.
A children’s play area will welcome the youngest visitors.
“Each child that comes there will get to go our kids’ zone,” Jenkins said. “The kids’ zone is going to have inflatables and games. And we are going to give each child their own bag of toys.”
A reading area for the children has also been planned by organizers.
“The kids can go to the children’s book section, where they will receive free books,” Jenkins said.
Readers will find books in Spanish there, too.
“We are also providing free haircuts and free family portraits,” Jenkins said. “What people like to do is stand in line to get a haircut and, then, go with their family to the family portraits (area). Some of them will cry because they have never had a family portrait before. We actually hand the pictures to them when they leave.”
Visitors will have a “wonderful day,” said Jenkins.
“These individuals need to come with strong arms because they are going to be carrying all sorts of things,” she said.
Transportation at the grounds will be provided for those who need it, she added.
“We have little Jeeps that can carry people from one end to the other,” Jenkins said. “There are a lot of people who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs. This is a big area, so we will have those vehicles to take people everywhere. And when (visitors) get all the stuff, we can help them take it to their car.”
Reaching across the language barrier
Interpreters will aid those visitors who don’t speak English.
“We have interpreters speaking Spanish – various dialects of Spanish.
There are also several other volunteers offering to translate various languages, added Jenkins.
“A translator will go with you and take you to the various parts,” Jenkins said. “We are trying to provide a personal shopping experience because, when you walk into a warehouse with 3 million items, it’s hard to know where to go.”
The CHIP program
One Day of Hope has partnered with The Grand Lodge of Tennessee Free & Accepted Masons (F&AM) to provide a free child identification program (CHIP) at the event.
CHIP is designed to give families protection against the increasing problem of missing and abducted children. The program uses photos and fingerprint kits to provide information to the authorities when needed.
“We are going to provide the CHIP program,” Jenkins said. “It operates under the direct sponsorship of The Grand Lodge of Tennessee F&AM. They bring special machines to the fairgrounds and do a mouth swab and a recording of the child’s voice. They will fingerprint the child, too. They will give all that information to the parent; nothing is retained by the masonic lodge.”
Jenkins encourages parents to take advantage of the program and bring their children, ages 3 to 13.
Helping those in need
This event wouldn’t be possible without the hundreds of volunteers and dozens of churches donating money, items and time, according to Jenkins.
“One Day of Hope is totally financed by volunteer contributions from churches, individuals and organizations that recognize that we have a humanitarian duty to help those in need,” she said.
Local banks, medical and other organizations and individuals provide all items and services for the event.
Jenkins thanked all volunteers for supporting people in need.
“The people that feel hopeless and have been shunned by the community, for whatever reason – whether they wear dirty clothing, or they are drug addicts or former prisoners – need acceptance. That acceptance is what makes the difference between being successful and going to the bad side again.”
Having someone to provide support is essential, said Jenkins.
“For instance, if you get out of prison and you have someone to guide you get a job, then you can start earning money, pay back your fines and try to be a healthier citizen,” Jenkins said. “If you do not find that acceptance, then you don’t have too many choices and you end up going to the bad side again.”
Jenkins has a firsthand experience.
“I know that personally because I had a son in jail and he told me, ‘Mom, it’s hard to be good and to be clean and to do lawful things when the world won’t accept you anymore,’ and that’s true,” Jenkins said.
Providing moral support is one of the main goals of One Day of Hope.
“What we have always tried to is to provide not only love but acceptance and social experience,” she said. “We try to pair (visitors) with (a volunteer) who can say ‘What a beautiful shirt you are getting today’,” she said.
That simple compliment will brighten the person’s day and provide much needed confidence
Hoping for a monthly event
Organizers of the event hope to offer necessary services to locals in need not just once a year, said Jenkins.
“Those that are blessed need to pass along those blessings,” she said. “We are working toward having One Day of Hope occurring monthly. We are working with Good Samaritan, and we are currency raising the funds.”
The plan is to either rent a space in the area or finance the building of a new structure in near future. The goal is to provide dental and medical services, clothing and haircuts every month.
“It’s a big endeavor, and it’s taking a lot of people that are displaying a lot of generosity and love – those are the two things we need, besides volunteer hours,” she said.
For more information, call Jenkins at 571-243-4727, or visit the website www.onedayofhopecc.org.
Elena Cawley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.