Low-income Omahans received bags of groceries and a day of fun Saturday at Turner Park in midtown Omaha.
A national group called Convoy of Hope and about 700 area volunteers put on a festival, which came with music, free health screenings, children's shoes, haircuts, family portraits, kids' games and activities and distribution of 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of groceries.
“It's amazing,” said Josie DeMuth, co-coordinator of the event with the Rev. Bart Wilkins of Flatland Church in Omaha. “It's awesome.”
Convoy of Hope, founded in 1994, is a Missouri-based organization that provides disaster relief, children's feeding programs throughout Central America, a women's empowerment effort in Africa and grocery dropoffs in various cities.
The group has visited Iowa, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Washington, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in recent weeks.
Wilkins said he encountered Convoy of Hope while on a relief mission after the Haiti earthquake of 2010. “They were the first people there,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins wanted to bring Convoy of Hope for one of its daylong events. He and DeMuth spent about seven months signing up 700 volunteers from churches and the community, along with companies to sponsor the event.
More than 4,000 people were expected to receive groceries.
“One of the big messages is that every single person in our community is valuable,” Wilkins said. “So we wanted to provide a day where we just demonstrate love, compassion and hope to people that may be underprivileged.”
Danesa Moses, 25, had three small children with her and two at home with their father. Moses and her kids received two plastic bags of groceries.
Moses said she landed a job over a month ago, providing nursing services in people's homes. “We're trying,” she said. “So we're maintaining.”
“Yeah,” she said to her children. “We're gonna go play.”
Jason Bachman, Convoy of Hope's national outreach director, said the foods in the grocery bags might vary, but they generally include items such as pasta, soup mix, granola bars and canned vegetables. Bachman said Convoy of Hope intends to provide enough food to cover a family for a couple of days.
The festival was designed to temporarily take the pressure off people, some of whom must battle through each day to make rent and buy food.
“What we're trying to do,” Bachman said, “is provide a poverty-free day for people.”