HopeFest is returning to Chase Field on April 18. The annual event, which is coordinated by CityServe Arizona, connects our city’s “uninsured, underinsured and underserved” residents with a variety of resources and services they need. I spoke with Terrilyn Miller, the director of CityServe, about the upcoming event.
FP: This will be the fourth time CityServe has sponsored HopeFest in Phoenix. Tell us how this annual event got started.
TM: Billy Thrall, our founder, tells the story how he heard about HopeFest Tucson and wondered why we didn’t have anything like it in Phoenix. Soon after launching CityServe Arizona in April 2011, Lisa Chastain, the Founder and Executive Director of Hope Network (which puts on a HopeFest in Tucson each October), coached us through the initial stages of starting a HopeFest Phoenix. Several of us toured the Tucson event in October 2011 to see what it was like. We then took the idea and made adjustments to fit the needs here locally. For instance, Tucson had a homeless population focus and we wanted to focus on families that had been hit hard by the economic downturn and had no idea where to go for help. It was a leap of faith, but we held our first annual event in April 2012 – and it far exceeded our wildest dreams.
FP: For the past few years, the Arizona Diamondbacks have hosted HopeFest at Chase Field, and it’s a real bridge-building event, bringing together a diverse range of partner organizations. Talk about the links CityServe AZ has been able to develop between nonprofits, businesses, and government through this event over the years.
TM: I cannot even begin to list all the partnerships! There are students and faculty from middle school to graduate school who participate in HopeFest. ASU has student groups such as the Council of Religious Advisors to nursing students from the College of Nursing and Health Innovation that are doing donation drives and volunteering. Grand Canyon University has been a major donor the past two years and provides space for us to hold our planning meetings on campus, and Fuller Theological Seminary has been a major donor since our first year.
The Governor’s Office of Faith and Community Partnerships leads the volunteer management and the Department of Economic Security continues to provide a major role by providing many of their services during the event. First Things First of Arizona has served on the planning team and has sponsored HopeFest every year – in fact, they were one of our very first sponsors! Businesses such as U-Haul, which provides staff, trucks, and storage, and DDR Medical Waste donate their time and provide critical services necessary for the success of HopeFest.
Nonprofits such St. Vincent de Paul provide everything from fresh produce to medical services, and Goodwill of Central Arizona brings in computers for employment services, as well as all the clothing racks for the clothing area at HopeFest – and they are just a few of the many that make HopeFest so beneficial to the guests. There are also hospitals that play a major role, such as Phoenix Children’s Hospital which does the entire Children’s Health and Safety Zone. They not only are financial sponsors, but PCH gives out bike helmets and car seats along with training for their proper safety use. This year PCH will have a whole pediatric area for children. Every year, through the employee giving program, the John C. Lincoln Health Foundation has sponsored HopeFest. There are also organizations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Care1st/ONECare, and Health Net Access who serve on the planning team and as sponsors.
There are so many churches and faith communities that step up to serve and give! I love the variety of denominations and traditions thats serve side-by-side. There are well-over 100 churches alone, many of which are financial contributors such as City of Grace and Desert View Bible Church. We also have foundations that are very generous and have helped make HopeFest possible. This year Mission Increase Foundation partnered with BHHS Legacy Foundation on a matching grant through Legacy Connection for the Working Poor Tax Credit.
The bottom line is there is no way to properly represent the over 400 organizations that make HopeFest possible! What is so amazing, in a world that is often competitive and self focused, is that each year we get to see huge, successful organizations and institutions show up with little to no recognition, slip on a HopeFest t-shirt and serve with all their hearts. And you know what they tell us later? They tell us, “That was the best day of my life.” So there you have it. Schools and government and nonprofits and hospitals and places of worship and foundations and a whole lot of individuals from all walks of life partnering to make something amazing happen, that no one person or group could accomplish on their own.
FP: Can you share one story of someone who was impacted by HopeFest in a recent year?
TM: My favorite stories are about the kindness and compassion of our “guests.” Can you imagine arriving in the dark of the night in hopes of getting a place near the front of the dental line, knowing if you are too far back you might not make the cut-off to be seen? After hours of waiting you watch as each person ahead of you completes the paperwork and is taken to the dental areas for treatment. So it was for one lady whose story I’ll tell. The line had to be cut off with the two women who were in front of her. The two ladies were friends but did not know the women behind them. In pain and disappointment the women behind them broke down sobbing. They saw her pain and quickly determined this women’s needs far exceeded their own and gave her their place in line. By then all three ladies were in tears as they began to hug each other. The dental volunteer was so moved by what she saw that she broke down crying. With a goodbye hug the lady in pain was taken for treatment while the two other women stood and watched. The volunteer got their contact information and when a dentist heard about what they had done, he insisted he treat them in his office. That simple, yet self-sacrificial act of kindness is the best example of what HopeFest is about – spreading love and giving hope. It is something we can all do.
FP: What makes this event unique?
TM: One reason is the magnitude of the event and the beautiful venue in which it is held. We want to treat our “guests” to the very best we can offer. I often tease that people pay for tours of Chase and our “guests” get a whole lot more than a tour for free. But what matters besides all the many things the guests receive during the charitable event is the connections to resources that they make. It is those connections that change lives. HopeFest is having impact that reaches across state lines. Business offices in Los Angeles are collecting donations and sending them to Arizona – that blows my mind! Other states have sent people to meet with us to talk about what they need to do to have a HopeFest in their area.
But we also are being recognized in places like Washington, D.C. through a national campus challenge that universities participate in. Amy Golden, Assistant Dean of Students at ASU, shared with me a few months ago that ASU considers HopeFest the perfect year-long interfaith opportunity that impacts the ASU campus and community by increasing and encouraging dialogue across faiths through serving side-by-side on behalf of the HopeFest guests. She has expressed to me she wants to feature HopeFest when ASU presents in the future at the national gathering of universities in D.C. Pretty exciting, right?
To learn more about HopeFest please visit cityserveaz.com.
Header photo courtesy of CityServe Arizona