Little luxuries, free haircuts, groceries and family portraits were all on offer as almost 250 volunteers from Church Out Serving hosted its annual We Believe in Simcoe Day on May 11.
About 600 people turned out to the Aud at the Simcoe fairgrounds, which was packed with more than 40 booths or stands where the guests – people needing a bit of help – could get life necessities like clothing, groceries, diapers and indulge in treats as well.
“We really feel it’s important to serve the local community with no strings attached,” said organizer Virginia Lucas, who co-chaired the event with Adele Haverkamp.
The two women are long-time volunteers with Church Out Serving, a registered charity that draws help and support from 26 local churches, 49 businesses and 42 agencies for the big day.
Working with donations from businesses and individuals, some small grants from the county and local service clubs and hundreds of volunteer hours, Church Out Serving packed the Aud with things to give away.
People lined up to go through a grocery area, pick up kids clothing, select jewelry items, books or games. They also had chances to create a planter to take home, participate in various games to win prizes or make a Mother’s Day card.
Around the room were information booths that offered help of all sorts from Celebrate Recovery, EarlyON Centre, Senior Support Services, St. Vincent de Paul and Canadian Mental Health.
And the treatment areas offering haircuts, manicures and neck and shoulder massages had waiting lists.
“We have five stylists and some people who come every year say this is their annual haircut,” said Lucas. “Many have never had a massage before because it’s a luxury.”
The portraits are also popular and families waiting for a turn to pose for two professional photographers offering their services.
“This is my first time here,” said Alexandria Hall from Lynedoch.
“It’s really cool that they let people come and pick up a free planter and get a photo. It’s great to see people I know volunteering here. I’ll be back next year.”
In between shots, Dr. Mark Ghesquiere said he’s been involved in the project for years because it’s an investment in his community.
“I believe in loving where you live and I love Simcoe,” Ghesquiere said.
“I believe in what Church Out Sharing does too and enjoy taking pictures of families. I’ve watched some of these families grow over the years.”
Each of the photo areas were set up so that the guests could choose the picture they liked and have it printed in an 8 X 10 photo and have it emailed digitally to them as well.
Lucas said the team developed a passport system that helps ensure people are assisted through the process without any one person taking too much of the donations on offer.
After registering, each guest can visit a station once. But Lucas added that the idea is not to hold back on the many items that had been brought in to share.
“We don’t want leftovers!”
Lucas said the project is created “very inexpensively”, but said the team providentially always seemed to have just enough money to provide what was planned.
Church Out Serving bought the old Simcoe LCBO building in 2016 and raised more than $650,000 to renovate it as a place where people will, hopefully by the end of the year, be invited to drop in for assistance and a coffee.
For more information on Church Out Serving, go to www.churchoutserving.org.