By: Tina Cook and Fred Leonard
This article adapted from the original that ran in November 2018 to promote the Convoy of Hope/Limestone event.
“Hope is a good thing…maybe the best of things; and no good thing ever dies.” This profound statement was made by Andy Dufrense, the main character of the 1994 blockbuster movie, The Shawshank Redemption. In the movie, he is serving a life sentence at the Shawshank State Penitentiary for two murders he did not commit. Eventually he escapes by digging a tunnel under the prison; he worked long and hard to garner his freedom.
Though not a prison of guards and bars, there are many in our community who live a life of imprisonment. It is a prison of poverty, of despair, and of hopelessness. According to data collected in 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau, 12% of Limestone County residents live below the poverty level. This means that about 11,870 of our fellow residents struggle just to keep food on the table, clothes on their back, and provide other necessities for themselves and their families. In many cases, these types of socioeconomic hardships can lead to feelings of desperation, maybe even a feeling of worthless insignificance.
The Athens-Limestone County area is a tight-knit community that grasps the plight of the less fortunate amongst us. Many are actively making a difference in lives. The Athens–Limestone Ministerial Alliance, better known as ALMA, is a group of local pastors, ministers, and community leaders whose purpose is to promote unity in the Body of Christ and to meet spiritual and benevolent needs. Many in the community are not aware that ALMA created our local food bank, Limestone County Churches Involved (LCCI) which feeds our hungry and homeless residents.
Members of ALMA have a driven passion when it comes to living out the mission of our group. Three years ago, we undertook the Convoy of Hope event which not only made a difference on that day but has had a rippling effect long afterwards. ALMA members immediately knew we wanted to host another event. We began planning the upcoming event in 2018. Though circumstances caused us to adjust our original plan, the HOPE FOR ATHENS event is happening on November 6, 2021. Early that morning local volunteers, known for the day as the Hope for Athens Crew, will serve our guests of honor who will receive a hot meal, haircuts, family portraits, shoes, job services, health services, veterans’ services, free groceries, and more. There will be a Kid’s Zone for the young ones to enjoy and a Prayer Tent where folks can go for hope and encouragement. Also, if desired, people can be connected with a church near their home.
Are you a local resident who wants to make a difference in lives…or perhaps someone who needs to be encouraged and loved extravagantly? If so, then ALMA cordially invites you to be part of our Hope for Athens Kindness Crew or a Hope for Athens Guest of Honor! Whoever you are and wherever you fit into Hope for Athens, we are asking you to take part in displaying that Athens–Limestone County is a community who shows up, cares, and gives lavishly. Even more than that, we want to make an extravagant impact for the Kingdom of God!
Our lives are filled with moments that can transform, enlighten, heal, and unite. This event is another opportunity for our community to make many more of those moments. It has the power to bind us together not as givers and receivers but rather friends, neighbors, and fellow human beings working toward a common good. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”