“The best thing about it really is all the smiles,” said Rev. Tim Roth, pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church.
Roth was referring to what has become an annual event for the Portsmouth church, an event which last year attracted about 1,200 people.
“Hopefest” as it’s known could possibly more accurately be called “Back to School Fest,” as the event provides everything from new shoes, to backpacks to, of course, basic school supplies for pre-kindergarten through elementary school-age children in the Portsmouth area.
“The truth is back to school time is really an expensive time for families and we just wanted to do something to help,” Roth said. He added prior to launching Hopefest, the church regularly received requests from parents wondering where they could get help with school supplies and other back-to-school needs for their children.
“We thought what if we could have this big event where we could bring a whole lot of people together and bless this community?” Roth said prior to last year’s event, pretty much explaining the genesis of Hopefest, now entering its fourth year.
The 2019 Hopefest is open to all, 9 a.m. to noon today, Aug. 17 at the Clark Athletic Complex (the old gym, beside Portsmouth High School.) You do not need to be a member of the church or meet any income guidelines to take part.
New shoes for students really seem to be a big part of the Hopefest agenda. Roth hesitated to say precisely how many pairs of shoes Cornerstone has on hand for today’s giveaway. Last year, the church handed out about 600 pairs of footwear. Roth said the church gives away shoes on a first-come, first-served basis. However, he also quickly noted despite last year’s large crowd, the church did not run out of shoes to give away.
In the past and again this year, just as, for example, the Catholic Pope yearly washes the feet of followers, volunteers will wash the feet of children receiving new shoes during Hopefest.
“We just want to show the kids, ‘We care about you,’” Roth said.
In addition to shoes and school supplies, kids also can receive back-to-school haircuts, free of charge, of course. In keeping with the rules of Portsmouth City Schools, Portsmouth school students will receive clear backpacks.
Kids and parents also can pick up basic hygiene kits to include such things as shampoo and a new toothbrush.
In addition to lots of free back-to-school goodies, Roth promised hot dogs and snacks to include the over 1,000 cookies donated by his congregation. There also will be games, balloons and a bouncy house to help entertain kids between lines for haircuts, shoes and so on.
At the 2018 event, the line for shoes was probably the longest queue at Hopefest. But the haircuts were popular as well.
“I just wanted to help,” said volunteer Kaitlyn Hodson 23, who at the time spent her days trimming locks at Mainstream on Gallia Street. “They all seem to appreciate it,” Hodson said regarding her efforts Hopefest.
One appreciative “customer” was Heather Brater, 11. Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Heather said she is glad summer is ending, that she is anxious for school to start again.
“I’m ready to go back,” Heather said.
Not far away from the hair cutting station, retired former Cornerstone Pastor Tom Charles was preparing to wash the feet of yet another child, this time nine-year-old Eric Quezaba. Eric tried to thank Charles for his efforts, but Charles said it was a blessing to him to be able to help Eric.
“There’s just a lot of joy,” Roth said in summing up Hopefest.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved