Each October, Tucson volunteers and businesses unite to offer much-needed help to those in need during an event aptly named Hope Fest.
This weekend, Hope Fest will take place Saturday at Kino Stadium and will provide free medical and dental care, groceries, haircuts, clothing, and hygiene items to Tucsonans in need.
The day before, Oct. 21, Hope Fest will hold its first "Pack the Park" donation drive, and is calling on the community to drop off gently used clothing, plus new hygiene items, canned food, diapers and stuffed animals at Kino Stadium, 2500 E. Ajo Way in Tucson, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
All collected donations from Friday's Pack the Park donation drive will be distributed on Saturday to those in need, including poor, underprivileged working families and the homeless in Tucson.
The event has proved successful in helping many local residents in need, said Lisa Chastain, the Oro Valley woman who founded the Hope Network, the event's organizer.
"Two years ago, a homeless woman and her 10-year-old son came to us. They were living in a car and in need of food and clothing. She got a job after connecting with the job center, and came back to Hope Fest the following year to help volunteer to help others in need," Chastain said. "She and others are part of the ‘cycle of giving' that Hope Fest creates."
To make donating easy, donors can drive up to the stadium and drop off their items to volunteers curbside, she noted.
During Hope Fest, local organizations will provide free medical and dental care and haircuts. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses will give flu shots, check vital signs, blood pressure and glucose levels, perform eye and hearing tests, and conduct HIV and pregnancy tests.
More than 175 dental professionals will also donate their time and services to Hope Fest, providing cleanings, full exams, X-rays and cavity care to those who need it. If extensive dental work is needed, the patient will be transferred to a dental office where that work can be completed.
"Our dental professionals can see 500 people in the one day, so the line forms very early for these services," Chastain said.
Other stations will provide simple, yet appreciated services, such as haircuts.
"We did 500 haircuts last year, and gave away vouchers for 1,000 haircuts," Chastain said.
In addition, Hope Fest 2010 gave away 2,500 bags of groceries, 300 pairs of reading glasses, and 50,000 pounds of new clothes, and served 5,000 lunches.
Kino Stadium gates open for Hope Fest 2011 at 9 a.m. on Oct. 22, also known as national "Make a Difference Day." Event organizers recommend those requiring services to line up 24 hours before the event to ensure they receive the services offered.
Hundreds of local volunteers and nonprofit, government, social service and faith-based organizations are expected to come together once again for a common cause during Hope Fest 2011.
Sponsored by Pima Medical Institute, other contributors to this year's event include Southern Arizona Endodontics, Delta Dental Foundation of Arizona, Student Health Advisory Committee (University of Arizona Students), Airtronics, Inc., Pima County, Sam Levitz Furniture.
If you are interested in donating to "Pack the Park" or volunteering at Hope Fest 2011, visit www.hopefest.com.
Hope Fest is in its 19th year of helping those in need. Hope Network, Inc., the local non-profit organization Chastain founded to provide Tucsonans with the basic necessities of life, is the current organizer.
Hope Network took over Hope Fest after its founding organizer, Gospel Rescue Mission, had to give it up. Chastain's grandfather, Ray Chastain, founded the mission.
The annual charity event won the National Make a Difference Day Award for volunteerism in 2008, the Governor's Volunteer Service Award in 2010 and the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award in 2010.