Residents line up in the beating sun outside of Bowling Green Elementary School in Westbury as music flooded the field adjacent the school building, which was painted with tents, bounce houses and many smiling guests. On June 2, New Hope Church and Shelter Rock Church, both in Westbury, held their annual Hope Day summer extravaganza to benefit community members in need.
“We want to bless people,” said Pastor Dan Olson, as he gave the Herald a tour of the festival, for which the church purchased 600 shoes to give away. There was also a clothing section, trays of hot food, a section for haircuts and portraits, informational booths for health care services and a children’s entertainment section, among many other amenities — all free of charge.
“Talking to people and sharing stories of hope with them is the best part of the event,” said Isaiah Spencer, of Queens College Dietetics Club. He ran a nutrition booth with Andrea Ramos, of Healthy Friends, which sat adjacent a medical consultation booth. He said that guests often come to them from the medical booth and are able to visualize how easy it is to change unhealthy habits.
“Everybody who comes here is our guest of honor,” Olson said, noting a specific guest who came across Hope Day by chance. Olson said that the guest was homeless and, on finding Hope Day, stayed there for hours and has come back ever since.
Last year, over 150 volunteers served over 1,000 guests in the community. The event held its inaugural year in 2012 after a Valley Stream pastor named Steven Milazzo, of Bethlehem Assembly of God, joined with the non-profit Convoy of Hope for a festive, charitable event to feed those in need in Nassau County. Since then, it spread to other locations across the tri-state area. On June 2, there were 22 participating sites throughout Long Island and several in New York and New Jersey.