Guitar ruffs and horn melodies filled the field adjacent Bowling Green Elementary School in Westbury as the sun shone on guests playing Frisbee, having lunch and shopping. What made the festival different than others, however, is that everything was free.
New Hope Church and Shelter Rock Church held their annual Hope Day summer event to benefit community members in need.
“We’re here to bless the community,” said Pastor Dan Olson, as he gave the Herald a tour of the festival, for which the church purchased 400 pairs of shoes, various clothes, toys and trays of hot food.
There was also a section for haircuts and portraits, informational booths for health care services and a children’s entertainment section, among many other amenities.
New Hope and Shelter Rock start planning in December by purchasing goods and securing vendors. Olson called it a “reverse fundraiser” because the churches have raised the funds themselves and are giving out goods and services to “bless the community,” he said.
Robbie Prevete, a worship leader at New Hope Church, played guitar in five different bands that entertained guests throughout the day. He was one of roughly 120 volunteers worked the event.
“When you’re filled with God’s love, you can’t help but volunteer,” said Mark Bevilacque, of Shelter Rock Church, which has locations in Manhasset, Syosset and Westbury. Bevilacque assisted Olson throughout the event, filling in for Lead Pastor Gregg Farah.
“Just look at the smiles on everyone’s faces,” Bevilacque said. “The misery of poverty is so overwhelming, so you just want one day to be able to forget about it.”
The event held its inaugural year in 2012 after a Valley Stream pastor named Steven Milazzo, of Bethlehem Assembly of God, joined with the non-profit Convoy of Hope for a festive, charitable event to feed those in need in Nassau County. Since then, it spread to other locations across the tri-state area. On June 2, there were 22 participating sites throughout Long Island and several in New York and New Jersey.