By the Numbers: Thousands of Volunteers Help Serve Thousands in Need at Springfield Event
Free haircuts, dental work, and family photos received by citizens of northwest Springfield Saturday brought what event organizers hope is the start of a strong foundation for change.
All told some 8,000 guests living in Zone 1 - an area of Springfield heavy in crime, illness and poverty – were treated to what officials dubbed the poverty-free experience.
“It was a one-day event but it was really the beginning of the city’s Zone 1 blitz to make an impact in that northwest quadrant of Springfield.”
Jeff Nene, national spokesperson for Springfield-based Convoy of Hope, says over 2,600 volunteers signed up with the organization to serve in a variety of capacities.
Zone Blitz is an initiative over one year in the making that started by identifying systemic problems on the city’s northwest side. After conducting listening tours with citizens and recruiting various partner agencies, officials are mapping out ways to tackle those negative data indicators like crime and poverty, but also chronic nuisance properties and unemployment.
Saturday’s community service initiative conducted by Convoy of Hope is similar to the roughly 30 events it hosts worldwide. Nene estimates it was the seventh time it had been done in Springfield and the first that catered to Springfield’s Zone Blitz efforts. Northwest citizens were made aware of the event weeks prior.
586 people received haircuts from volunteer professional beauticians, over 1,700 sought health services from CoxHealth, and more than 1,300 eye exams were administered. Nene adds that 14 dentists combined to pull nearly 200 teeth from those needing orthodontic treatment.
“I can remember one of the first ladies in line was there specifically for dental help. She had a horrible tooth ache and she was able to get that taken care of right away.”
Over 200 received help through veteran’s services, a job fair catered to some 150 people, and officials with the National Breast Cancer Foundation offered awareness tips to over 1,300 women.
“Another unique thing that we did this time was what we call Gardens in a Bag… 2,300 Gardens in a Bag were handed out. People can go home and plant vegetables and grow them in their own yards,” said Nene.
Additionally, each adult guest was given two bags of nonperishable groceries. The bags left over were sent with neighborhood church pastors to distribute among their members.
“We want it to be a day free from poverty… but also it’s a day to really change the hearts of the volunteers,” Nene says. “One of the goals we have in every city we go to is for this to be kind of a catalyst… to get people involved in serving people in need in their communities.”
On average, Convoy estimates its community service events provide over $1 million in goods and services to guests. Nene projects the Springfield event was “way over that” price point.