More in Featured
Helping families through Culture of Compassion
Volunteers for Culture of Compassion form an assembly line to put together backpacks to be given out to area students this Saturday. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
RUMFORD -- The Praise Assembly of God Church will host its second annual Culture of Compassion event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the DARE Field at Lincoln and Falmouth avenues.
Many River Valley families are planning ahead for the school year. However, a number of these families are hurting, due in part to the economy. A recent study said it costs an average of $688 for a student for back-to-school expenses like clothing and school supplies. This added expense can be particularly worrisome to families concerned about putting the next meal on the table.
That is part of the premise behind a one-day free event, which is offering free school supplies, gently used clothing, health and dental fair, a lunch, groceries, entertainment and a kids zone. Last year's event attacted 605 people and 287 families. This year, they are prepared for 1,200 people.
Mission coordinator Brandy Ledesma said they want people to know "you're not alone. There are people who care about you. This is a family event. People go through this as a family; it's a family project."
The thought was that maybe they lost some people at the start last year because of the long lines. This year, instead of a line at the gate waiting for the event to start, they will be let in where there will be entertainment and they can also get a head start on doing the necessary paperwork.
For Saturday's event, Ledesma said there will be 60 volunteers, who will be wearing orange and black "Culture of Compassion" t-shirts.
"She reminded the volunteers to serve with a smile.There's a lot of people who are heavy hearted. Represent the Lord."
Since February, they've been collecting for this event, which includes clothing for students and adults, even some baby materials.
Work will continue right up until the event. On Thursday, Ledesma said volunteers will be going to Ladd Farms to pick corn for the event.
She noted that area churches are also doing their part to assist in this project.
Pastor Justin Thacker said he's been hearing from parents who are concerned about the new student dress code for RSU 10, which will mean some of the school clothes their children were wearing will have to be replaced.
The actual school board policy states “Apparel that draws undue attention to the wearer can detract from the educational process and is therefore inappropriate. School is a work/learning environment; as such, acceptable standards of dress for a school setting will naturally differ from those standards associated with social attire.”
In general, clothing must cover from shoulders to mid-thigh. Shoulder straps should be at least two fingers’ width and cover both shoulders. Midriffs, cleavage and backs must be covered. Skirts and shorts much reach mid-thigh. Exposed undergarments are not appropriate.
Clothing may not promote tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs. Messages with offensive or profane language are prohibited, along with gang-affiliated, sexually explicit or suggestive symbols or language.
All of the RSU 10 policies can be found at http://rsu10schools.com/education/components/docmgr/default.php?sectiond.
When a family enters the event, they will go to a registration table where their information will be taken by one of the volunteers. A punch ticket will be issued to each family, to be used as a family goes through each of the stations.
The kids zone will feature a Moon Bounce, which will be delivered the night before the event, so volunteers will have to take turns around the clock to "babysit" it at the field. There will also be a dunk tank.
Next is a table for health and dental education. They will be expanding the health services offered. People from Rumford Hospital will be offering bone density screenings. Nurse Jackie Dion of Livermore Falls will be educating people about diet. Also there will be Ray and Lisa Doherty of Main St. Dental Hygiene, with a lot of toothbrushes to give out.
There will also be particians to allow for more privacy. "We want people to learn something about themselves," noted Ledesma.
That will be followed by a place for school supplies and gently used clothing. There will also be a number of college t-shirts and hats, withe the priority for these going to high schoolers. Volunteers will also make these students aware that there are accredited Christian colleges that are available to them as well.
They will not be offering the hair cuts this year as no one stepped up to offer their services.
Pastor Thacker and others will be delivering their message at the Hope Zone.
Entertainment will include the Teen Challenge, Joel and Janna, Belmont Radio (with Mtn. Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert) and Brandy's sister-in-law, Sara Ledesma.
Hope, a drug rehab center out of Winthrop, is available to give encouragement with residents struggling with addiction.
Called Teen Challenge, a national organization, they originally helped young people but now also help adults. They also have a choir.
Teen Challenge is a Christian recovery program and a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers. It is a 12-18 month program geared toward drug addicts, alcoholics, gang members, prostitutes and people with other characteristics that the program considers to be "life-controlling problems," or life endangering addictions.
There will be a prayer table, followed by a table with a free meal including hot dogs. Then there's a table with groceries for two full meals and a craft table.
At the end of the walk through the stations, there will be a survey asking their thoughts about this event. They will also provided with a list of local churches.
Ledesma said. “We hope to continue this event for many years to come. The exit interviews we conducted after last year's event gave us nothing but positive feedback. We think this year will go just as well."
People who would like to donate to this event can do so with checks to Praise Assembly of God, (mark Culture of Compassion), P.O. Box 269, Rumford, ME 04276.
For more information, call Praise Assembly of God Church at 364-3586, or stop by and visit at 89 Congress St. in Rumford.