Volunteers bring hope to French Hill's guests of honor
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Over 300 volunteers joined the Marlborough Convoy of Hope to host nearly 1,000 guests Oct. 12 at Stevens Park. Convoy of Hope is an international faith-based organization that unites with local volunteers from churches, businesses and nonprofit agencies to help those in need of assistance. Serving as the event organizer was Rob Woods, pastor of the New Hope Community Church.
“All of us working together is what brings hope to people,” Woods said. “There's a multitude of people who care about reaching out to them. They'se our guests of honor for the day.”
Woods became aware of the convoy when he and other pastors from New England were invited to observe firsthand the organization's efforts providing food in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. That's when he discovered the convoy also goes to cities nationally. Woods discussed the idea of bringing the convoy to Marlborough with Mayor Arthur Vigeant.
“As we talked with the mayor, we seemed to be navigating toward Stevens Park,” Woods said. “We realized the people with the greatest need and who don's know the resources available to them were in the French Hill area.”
French Hill, which is named after its original French Canadian settlers, is roughly bounded by Silver, Pleasant, West Main and Elm streets. The neighborhood now has a diverse ethnic population.
When the call went out for help, the community responded with significant monetary donations and manpower commitment. Responsibilities were delegated to leaders for various activities, many of which took place in tents at the park.
Guests were greeted by members of the Marlborough Rotary Club with Molly Brodeur as leader. Children were registered with wrist bands and adults were given a coupon for bags of groceries to take home when they left the event.
Vision screenings were offered by the Marlborough Lions Club with Bob Page as leader. They recruited assistance from local opticians.
Flu shots were available in a health services tent, overseen by leader Lisa McCabe with support from Bob Landry of the Marlborough Board of Health.
A popular tent led by Marilyn Hernandez offered children's shoes. Volunteers measured kids” feet and updated the stock. The new shoes were anonymously donated.
While the parents appreciated the new shoes, children were happy to visit Kids Zone with inflatable amusements. Families were also entertained by T-Bone, aka Tom Stankus.
Guests were treated to lunch at a tent led by Bob Kays, owner of the Prospector Bar and Grill. Kays supplied hamburgers and hot dogs; Welly's Restaurant provided chicken pot pie; and Classic One Pizza delivered pizzas.
Tents also housed volunteers offering free haircuts and family portraits.
Numerous nonprofit organizations were in the community service tent with leader Nilsa Roman, director of Marlborough Human Services. Guests collected literature and spoke with representatives, who could assist them with various needs as a follow-up to the convoy.
A tent was available for guests wanting to pray.
“We want to be able to connect with them,” Woods said, “to really get to know what their needs are.”
According to Woods, the final operating budget was $15,000. Half of that amount went toward the 10,000 pounds of food delivered by the convoy, most of which was given to guests to take home. The leftover food was stored and will soon be dispersed within the neighborhood.
“Once people find out all that is available to them through the city, nonprofit organizations and churches, and they see there are people who actually care, that will change their mindset,” Woods said. “They'sl seek the help they need and we'sl do our best to help them.”
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