About 1,500 helped by ‘Day of Hope’

Published 8:10 am Friday, March 19, 2010

FRANKLIN—Hundreds of people in need queued up in their vehicles and on foot to attend a charitable distribution of goods on Thursday, part of the “Day of Hope” festivities organized by Hope Charitable Services and the Franklin Vicinity Ministerial Conference.

The scene was busy yet orderly, and everywhere were the young, smiling faces of the Lee University Choir, a ministerial choir from the Cleveland, Tenn., school.

“Usually our tours are just going around and singing at churches, and that’s a form of ministry on its own,” said 18-year-old Michael Young, a freshman from Gainesville, Ga., and one of about 95 choir members to help out. “But I think this is where we get to actually apply the love of Christ that we sing about. It makes it more real to people that are in need that don’t usually go to those churches. They came here and saw the same stuff that we sing about.”

Several pallets of goods were stacked down the center of the parking lot adjacent to the abandoned Hayden school, while cars slowly crept down two lanes of traffic, their occupants carefully picking from the bounty of goods: Hamburger buns. Bottled water. Diapers. Sunblock.

“Things went absolutely wonderful,” said Bishop Frank Allen, executive director for Hope Charitable Services, a faith-based nonprofit organization based in Hampton Roads. “We were able to serve 300 families, and we estimate those families represent over 1,500 individuals. We were able to begin our dental clinic process, taking applications and even seeing and screening patients today. We took applications for dental care, eye care and medical care.”

Calvetta Jones, a resident of Sunbury, N.C., was one of the people who received aid.

“I came out because we heard that you were helping the community out,” Jones said. “We actually needed the help. I have been struggling tremendously. I have six kids. My fiancée is on the road.”

Jones indicated that she was very moved from the experience, adding, “They have been doing prayer with me and been keeping my spirits up.”

According to Allen, two tractor-trailers loaded with goods valued at $120,000 were distributed.

“This is the most incredible outpouring that I have ever experienced in all of my ministry,” said Franklin Church of God Bishop James Ashby. “This is the third time Hope Charitable Services has blessed the City of Franklin, but this is far and above what we’ve ever experienced. It’s just a great attitude around here. That’s what we were attempting to do, to spread some sunshine and love and support.”

Sadly, more than 200 people were turned away because organizers ran out of goods to distribute.

Asked if his organization would return someday to Franklin, Allen unequivocally said yes.

“We’re hoping that this has sparked some interest in the city to where we can get the corporate and faith communities to come together and help us bear some of the cost, which is very minimal,” Allen said. “We’re going to put together some budgets and see what it’s going to cost, but we think we can do an event of this nature for $7,000.”

Allen added that about $40,000 of brand new clothing would be distributed “in an accountable fashion so that those who are going for interviews have proper clothing.” He said Dr. Peggy Scott, senior pastor of Fellowship Around the Word Church and president of Peggy Scott Ministries, would be in charge of the clothing distribution.

The Lee University Choir performed Wednesday evening at Franklin Church of God.

“Last night the concert was unbelievable,” Ashby said. “The support of our churches has just been incredible. We believe that this could be just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve proven that with a small group of volunteers, what we’ve accomplished is a small miracle.”

Pastor Anthony Goodwyn of New Hope Baptist Church, who also serves as president for the Franklin Vicinity Ministerial Conference, said he was also moved by the two days of events.

“There’s just one word to describe them: awesome,” Goodwyn said of the choir members. “To see young people today ministering, you’re seeing God move in such an awesome way. They did a beautiful concert last night and they’ve been laboring all day. They’ve been enjoying their ministry.”

The Franklin Vicinity Ministerial Conference is an affiliation of between 35 and 40 local churches.

Jonathan Etienne, a 23-year-old senior from Gainesville, Ga., said the event left a lasting impression with him.

“I wish we had more food,” Etienne said. “I actually like doing this better than anything else. I might do this after I graduate. This is what it’s all about and I’m glad we’re doing this.”