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Convoy of Hope brings help to local residents

September 14, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Last year's event helped about 3,000 people.

This year, the Hagerstown Convoy of Hope is expected to serve about 5,000.

For Melissa Linn, one of the event's co-leaders, it's something to which she's looking forward.

"It's my heart, meeting the practical needs as well as walking alongside people and giving them hope," Linn said.

Convoy of Hope is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1994 that provides disaster relief and community outreach in the United States and around the globe. Last year's event, the first in Hagerstown, was initiated by LifeHouse Church East Pastor Patrick Grach.

Linn, 37, is a member of LifeHouse Church Bethel on East Wilson Boulevard, where she volunteers as a music minister. She is one of about 35 volunteers who are on the leadership team planning this year's Convoy of Hope.

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A 1989 graduate of Williamsport High School, Linn earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in community counseling at Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania and Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. She moved back to Washington County in 2002 and lives in Hagerstown.

"I think every person wants and needs to be believed in and as a Christian, Jesus is the greatest source of hope we can give somebody. It drives me to help," Linn said.

The 2009 Hagerstown Convoy of Hope will be Saturday, Sept. 26, rain or shine, beginning at 10 a.m. It most likely will end around 2 p.m. or while supplies last, Linn said.

Fairgrounds Park on Cleveland Avenue will be filled with tents featuring health services, such as breast exams, diabetes screenings, drug and alcohol counseling, back-to-school physicals, and information on women's health issues and elder care.

Lunch will be served, groceries and clothing will be given away, free haircuts and family photographs will be offered, and many community service organizations will be on hand.

There will be a job fair, prayer tent, live bands and a Kids' Zone with an inflatable bounce, climbing wall, clowns, puppets and games. All are welcome, regardless of income level, Linn said.

She said Convoy of Hope is about "helping local communities come together." This year, there are about 50 local churches participating in some way, she said.

It is estimated that 1,000 volunteers are needed, compared with 700 who helped last year.

"It's good unity in the community of Hagerstown itself. We believe in the community and want to support the needs of the community," Linn said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II has declared Sept. 26 Hagerstown Day of Hope and will help kick off the event at 10 a.m.

For more information, call 301-739-1167, ext. 213 or ext. 214, or go to www.hopeforhagerstown.org.

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