Hawaii's first Convoy of Hope event brings free services, food and compassion
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 9, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 3:14 a.m. HST, Aug 7, 2011
Scott Sonoda, an outreach pastor with First Assembly of God-Red Hill, knows what it's like to hit the bottom and feel beaten by despair.
"I was incarcerated before. I am an ex-drug addict. I've been down and out. People need hope and to be given the opportunity for a second, third and fourth chance," said Sonoda, who now oversees ministries dealing with homeless people, prisoners and youth.<t$h$>
That's why Sonoda was asked to coordinate 1,000 volunteers, and dozens of churches and organizations, to produce Hawaii's first Convoy of Hope event in two weeks. Dubbed "A Day of Compassion," the 10 a.m. event July 23 at Aloha Stadium is aimed at providing more than 7,000 people with food and services they cannot afford.
HOW TO HELPTo volunteer for the Convoy of Hope event on July 23, attend a rally July 22 at 7 p.m. at Aloha Stadium. For information, call 836-4479 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send monetary donations to Convoy of Hope Hawaii, 3400 Moanalua Road, Hono-lulu HI, 96819; or donate online at hawaiiconvoy.org.
Convoy organizers from the mainland "heard the passion in my voice," Sonoda said, as he showed them the congregations of homeless people from Waianae to Waimanalo five months ago.
"It's sad to see the homeless, but the saddest thing to see is homeless children, who have never had vaccinations or medical checkups since they were born. I see them running around barefoot, hungry and sick," Sonoda said.
<Kt-5o("case","cpsp")>Convoy of Hope I<$o($)>nc., based in Springfield, Mo., is a nonprofit, faith-based organization formed 16 years ago to feed the hungry and provide emergency relief for victims of disaster in the U.S. and around the world. It holds about 50 community outreaches nationwide a year, and wanted to bless Hawaii for contributing generously over the years, Sonoda said. <t$>
<t-2h95.999>The purpose of the event is "not just to feed or enable the homeless, but to give them a shot in the arm of hope. The economy is bad and the unemployment rate is high. People are losing their homes and jobs. We want to give them a solution, to help get them back on their feet. We're trying to help families that are trying to help themselves," he said. Convoy policy is to refer to those who come to the event as "guests of honor," as a show of respect to the worth of every person, Sonoda added.<t$h$>
The charity — whose slogan is "A driving passion to feed the world" — is bringing in 21 tons of nonperishable goods, most of it food. Everything at the event will be free: food, medical and dental screenings, job advice, family portraits, haircuts, backpacks filled with school supplies, slippers, children's activities and entertainment. It will stay open until the supplies run out and as long as people are in the stadium, he said.
More than 50 churches have lined up to support the Convoy event, and about the same number of businesses, in addition to social service and government agencies. More than $50,000 has been raised, but $30,000 more needs to be raised, Sonoda said.
"We have over 600 volunteers and we need about a thousand," he said, hoping the balance will come through at a volunteer rally at 7 p.m. July 22 at Aloha Stadium. Those who attend will receive a free T-shirt and instructions on how to help with greeting guests, serving lunch, distributing groceries or assisting with children. To set up the stadium for the rally, 100 volunteers are also needed for July 21 and 22.
Pastor Joe Hunkin of the Lighthouse Outreach Center in Waipahu has signed up 200 members of his church, including children, to unload Convoy containers and repackage them into grocery bags to distribute at the event. About 25 to 30 kids in the "Little Lights" group, ages 10 to 12, and 40 to 50 youth will be assisting.
"When I heard about Convoy, I jump in. When they grow up, my kids need to learn to love others," Hunkin said.
His congregation has had loads of experience in distributing food, as the church at 94-230 Leokane St. is an outlet of the Hawaii Foodbank. It serves at least 1,000 people in the community weekly, he said.
The kids also gave up their gymnasium, which Hunkin volunteered as a shelter for 150 homeless people five years ago — "My youth, they love to do that," Hunkin said.
Sonoda said, "I cannot see how people cannot partner with us. How can you live in your home and watch TV and say, ‘Well, I'll pray for you,' or, ‘I'll see about it next week'?"
"I'm an out-of-the-box pastor. We're called not to just sit in church; we're called to go out and make disciples of all nations, showing the love of God, not TALK about the love of God. The Bible said, ‘Faith without works is dead,'" Sonoda said.