NEW LONDON - Saturday turned out to be a day of giving in New London, as the first ever "Mission of Hope" set up shop in a city park.
Hundreds of people turned out for a day filled with generosity. Free haircuts. Free health check-ups. Free family portraits. Even free groceries. And it was all intended to help those in need get a hand up--not a hand out.
"It's just so exciting to see people that their needs are going to be helped and that it's so amazing. I don't know how to describe it," said Brooke Prahl, 18, who organized the entire event.
Prahl came up with the "Mission of Hope" event for her hometown after volunteering at a similar event last year in Appleton.
The Christian-based "Convoy of Hope" rolls into towns across the country every year offering free fellowship, family services and give-a-ways. Prahl decided at that event she didn't need to travel very far to help those struggling financially.
"There's people in need right where I live and I never realized that. I don't have to go somewhere to realize the people are in need," said Prahl.
"This is really awesome. They've never done anything like this in town here before, and the fact it's right before school and giving away shoes haircuts it's a really cool thing," said Deborah Rice, a resident of New London.
Rice came out with her family, saying many in the community are going through some rough times financially. She says the event was also a great way to spend the day as a family.
"I can't remember the last time we went and got a family portrait done," said Rice. "And everything's free."
In addition to helping one's immediate needs the event was also designed to have a lasting impact.
Those family portraits taken by volunteers will last a lifetime.
And the "Mission of Hope" also included a job fair on site, and even a tent for people to come together in prayer.
Those who took part say the goodwill of the "Mission of Hope" was contagious.
"There's probably a lot of people out there who need help. We should just communicate and help them out," said Hunter Doughty of New London.
And for Prahl, the first ever local event was definitely viewed as a success for all.
"It makes them feel like they have hope and makes me feel excited and happy that I'm helping someone in need," said Prahl.
Prahl would like to see similar events in the future. Saturday's event was made possible she says thanks to more than $10,000 in donations and numerous volunteers.
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