Convoy of Hope brings poverty-free day to St. Louis
More than a quarter of St. Louisans are living in poverty, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This weekend, several community organizations are partnering with the Convoy of Hope to lower that number.
The group says it will provide about $1 million worth of free goods and services Saturday on the corner of Sarah Street and Martin Luther King Drive beginning at 10 a.m. “Poverty-Free Day” hopes to address people's practical needs, such as groceries, haircuts, medical services, a job fair and other services. The Convoy of Hope is partnering with local businesses, churches, government agencies and nonprofits to provide services, according to a press release.
“It’s one of those days where we want people to be able to just enjoy themselves, but also have a chance to partake in some of the services and things that they normally can’t afford to do,” said Jeff Nene, media and communications director for the Convoy of Hope.
Local groups will be providing services at the event. Providers include the Metropolitan Training Alliance, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, Job Corps, St. Louis Business Resource Center and Excel Health Care.
St. Louis is just one stop on the Convoy of Hope’s two-year 50-state tour, which hopes to provide $50 million worth of goods and services to the poor. Nene said the tour is meant to highlight the power communities can have against poverty.
“It’s to call attention to the 46 million people in America that are living in poverty,” he said. “And then to call attention to the fact that by coming together and working together, our communities can do something and can have an impact on the war on poverty.”
Nene said the organization’s events’ free food often draws people in, but they usually leave with more than a few bags of groceries.
“When they get there, they find so much more,” he said. “The idea is to make this a day free from poverty -- a day that they don’t have to worry about what something costs or (think,) ‘What do I have to give up in order to do this for my children?’”
Alongside services for adults, the event will also feature live entertainment and a kids’ zone, the release states.
For community outreach projects, the Convoy of Hope partners with local people.
“They (events) will have anywhere from 500 to 2,000 volunteers who work during that day to make the day possible,” Nene said. “A lot of those volunteers or most of those volunteers come from either local business or local churches.”
Lee Scott of the Lively Stone Church is the principal coordinator of St. Louis’ event. He said he thinks the Poverty-Free Day will be a positive day for members of his church and other participating churches.
Scott said 700 to 800 members of his church and another 40 churches will be volunteering. The churches span over six denominations.
“It’s a lot of different churches coming together as one family, one body of Christ,” he said. “And (we’re) just serving the people of God.”
Nene said he and the Convoy of Hope wish their events last longer than just one poverty-free day. His best-case scenario is a long-term version of Saturday’s event.
“Our hope and our prayer is that it’s not just that one day, but by forging these relationships between these various parts of a community that this group will continue to meet and say, ‘OK, we did this and it worked. What are some other things that we can do in our community to help to poor?’ he said.