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By Carmen Ensinger
Things couldn’t have worked out better for the Winchester Assembly of God Church’s event Saturday as it coincided with the Civic Group’s Spring Fling, bringing the crowds out in groves.
The event was called Hope Winchester and it ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the 4-H Fairgrounds and Monument Park providing a fun-filled event for the whole family along with lots of free things for the taking.
It wasn’t your typical church event – this was something organized at the district level by the Assembly of God Church.
Winchester Assembly Pastor Cindy Colbert explained how the event came to Winchester.
“The Illinois District Assembly of God usually sponsors one rural community per year and last year I helped with the one at Atlanta, Ill.,” she said. “While I was there, I was thinking to myself how we needed to bring something like that to Winchester. So, I came back and I prayed and prayed, because it takes a little bit to get approved and they ended up choosing Winchester and I was just overjoyed.”
More than 80 volunteers, many of them from Calvary Church in Galesburg, descended upon Winchester to help put on the event. Everything that was offered was totally free. One could pick up a brand new pair of tennis shoes, a couple pair of Bombas socks, nice supply of groceries and hygiene kits.
A hairstylist from Galesburg came and provided free haircuts. In four hours time, she cut around 25 heads of hair – from four years old to nearly 90. There were also free family portraits taken and while one was waiting for their turn in line for the photos, they could enjoy a free lunch.
There was plenty to do for the kids as well. There were lots of inflatables including a bounce house and obstacle course, a balloon artist was on hand making animal balloons and there was also face painting and rock painting as well. For the more scientific and artistically inclined, there was a craft and science area.
Thanks to the many local sponsors, there were drawings for door prizes every 30 minutes. Some of the local establishments donating gift certificates or services included: Tipsords and United Community Bank who each gave a $25 gift card, Great Scott Community Market, who gave a $50 gift certificate and Winchester Bowl, who gave a free dinner for two plus four free games of bowling.
Other local sponsors included: Peppermill, Dorsey’s Hardware, First National Bank of Winchester, Grace Baptist Church and Alsey Baptist Church.
No doubt with the rising price of groceries, the main draw to the event was the free groceries that were offered. In the span of the four hour event, more than 200 families were served enough groceries to last at least two to three weeks.
Colbert admits she was a bit worried about where all the food for the giveaway was going to come from.
“When we first started planning this, we were like, oh my gosh, where are we going to get all this food because we were running into dead ends,” she said. “We were starting to get a little concerned and then the food started coming in like crazy and then our problem was where to put it all – our church doesn’t really have all that much room. I had barely enough room for my desk in my office and the kids sacrificed the ministry room to hold the groceries for two weeks.”
Colbert said there were several places that ended up providing food. Those included: Central Illinois Food Bank, Springfield; Midwest Food Bank of Illinois, Peoria; Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, Quincy and Convoy of Hope.
They ended up with so much food that it took volunteers four trips in a large trailer, plus several trucks, to haul the food from the church to the Extension Building.
Those volunteers came from all over as well. Churches who sent volunteers or provided sponsorship included: City Church, Jacksonville, Calvary Church, Springfield; Gospel Encounter, Mt. Vernon; First Assembly, Carlinville and New Rivers Church, Maryville.