BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — During difficult times, local churches want people to know: We care.
“We all need encouragement,” said Doug Knapp, senior pastor at New Life Christian Center. “We want to make sure people understand there are people who care; there is hope.”
That concern will show Saturday during the sixth annual H2O Community Party, sponsored by New Life’s Hearts to Hands Outreach Ministry. Other churches are involved, as well.
The day-long event will feature drawings for bicycles and household goods, a grocery giveaway starting at 3 p.m., a free hot-dog lunch, entertainment, tables with information about local services, health screenings, children’s games and messages from pastors.
It’s free and open to everyone.
“It doesn’t matter who they are. If they need help, we’re here,” said Suzie Halftown, community support worker at New Life.
Last year, about 2,500 people, including children, registered for the drawings. This year, the church is planning for more than 3,000 people, considering the economy.
Knapp noted there are more people not working or working fewer hours, or holding down two or three part-time jobs. The event isn’t just about the food giveaway, but about telling those people that someone cares and recognizes that people are struggling.
Vermilion County has a huge poverty population, Halftown said, with the unemployment rate at 10.9 percent. In Danville District 118, more than 70 percent of elementary children qualify for low-income meals, she said.
“With that in mind, we decided to funnel our financial resources to the greatest needs — household items and groceries,” she said.
Members of New Life’s congregation collected enough money to buy bikes, cookware, crock pots, bakeware, flatware, sleeping bags, sheet sets, towels, pillows, box fans and other items to give away. Including bikes, 319 items will be given away, she said.
A meal of hot dogs, potato chips and bottled water will be served.
Three trucks full of groceries and personal hygiene items from food banks will be unloaded this week. Volunteers from the Rock Church will organize that giveaway.
Participants also can pick up information about Danville Area Community College, Women’s Care Clinic, Habitat for Humanity, Celebrate Recovery, Love Lifted Me prison ministry and East Central Illinois Community Action.
Employees with Walgreens will screen for high blood pressure and blood glucose, and test body composition, as well as answer health-related questions. Genesis and Robinson chiropractors will be there.
On the stage, there will be entertainment by Rolana Brown, a Christian comedian, and dances by the 180 Youth Group. Volunteers from First Assembly of God will do children’s activities.
First Presbyterian, Second Baptist and New Life Church of Faith also have been involved this year.
Finding funding for the event hasn’t always been easy.
Business donations were down by one-third of what was received in the past, Halftown said. However, congregation members and others came through with donations.
Also, to help with expenses, New Life is offering something new this year — a Christian concert on Friday night.
Inspirational and entertaining performances will be given by New Life Christian Center and New Life Church of Faith praise teams, Engaged Worship from the Rock Church, and St. James United Methodist Church’s Doc Ashton & the Root Canals.
Admission to the concert will go toward funding next year’s H2O party. People may donate more than the admission price, if they want.
Concessions, however, will be handled by the arena.
Living Water, an event featuring four praise teams, will be from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the David S. Palmer Arena. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.
Admission is $7 per person or $18 per family. Tickets are available at the door. Proceeds go to the H2O community party.
On Saturday, the party will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the arena. Doors open at 10 a.m.
There will be drawings for new bikes and other prizes, as well as a food giveaway starting at 3 p.m. and a free hot dog lunch.