HALAWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of people got help that they may not have otherwise received Saturday as a faith-based group made its first-ever visit to Hawaii.
They were drawn to Aloha Stadium for an event put on by "Convoy of Hope," based in Springfield, Mo.
"Convoy of Hope is a faith-based organization, really, with a driving passion to feed the world," said Global Outreach coordinator Ron Showers. "We really have four arms to Convoy. This is one of them, our community outreach site. We do about 70 outreaches a year globally."
Before Saturday, Convoy of Hope had visited every state except Hawaii. It also has international programs and is also involved in disaster relief. Dozens of island churches have had long-term relationships with the organization, which helped lead to the event.
"Throughout the years, the churches of Hawaii have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Convoy of Hope, and so they wanted to give back," said Hawaii state coordinator Scott Sonoda, the pastor of the Assembly of God Church at Red Hill.
The outreach event involved 2,000 volunteers, who were doing everything from giving blood pressure checks and health screenings. Volunteer hairstylists from Paul Mitchell gave free haircuts, while other volunteers took family portraits. They also gave away 2,000 backpacks and 3,000 pairs of slippers, as well as 42,000 pounds of groceries. All of it, including admission, was free.
It was needed help for those who can't make ends meet.
"Especially the cost of living, because we continue go Foodbank," Thelma Wakabayashi, a Kaimuki resident, said after getting her free groceries. "We continue because the rent is crazy. Everything going high."
An estimated 12,900 people, many of them bussed in by churches, jammed the event, well about the estimated six or seven thousand that were expected.
"It gladdens us, but it saddens us that there are so many people here," said volunteer Bo Ehrig. "We don't want that many people to be here, but we're happy that so many people can be helped."
Organizers said that the event was open to everybody, but with a focus on those who needed help.
"Forty-five percent of this outreach happens after this," Sonoda said. "We've connected them with agencies, job fairs, medical screenings. So we've helped them out so that they can go out and help themselves."
"This wasn't a handout, this wasn't a pity party, this is an environment that people can make the changes they want to make, to have the life they dream of living," said Showers.
Convoy of Hope said it goes to a place with a need only when it is invited. It appears that with the large turnout, another invitation may be extended for the organization to return to Hawaii for another event next year.