Just days before Convoy of Hope’s Community Event in Los Angeles, very few believed it was actually going to happen. Residents of the Watts community have often been over promised and under delivered, and skepticism was running rampant. But in the face of adversity, hope came to Watts on December 2, 2017.
When the reality that this event was, in fact, going to happen, hope and excitement filled the community.
“I was driving down the street on my way to Convoy, and these big, monster Convoy of Hope trucks drove right by me,” said Julian Toriz, Los Angeles native and Kids’ Zone leader for the event. “I’m like ‘Oh my goodness!’ Rolling deep, 3 big trucks — boom, boom, boom. I got out my camera. I’m trying to drive and I’m like ‘I got to document this.'”
More than 8,400 Guests of Honor attended the event that day. They received free groceries, shoes, haircuts, and health services. The local team that worked with Convoy of Hope to make the event a reality was amazed at the impact on the community.
The Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles is an area of high poverty and crime. The 2010 census revealed that 35.9% of people in Southern Los Angeles live below the poverty line — more than double the U.S. rate of 14.1% of people. Watts is home to 13 known gangs and four of the largest housing projects in all of LA — all in a 2-square-mile area.
A large step for the Convoy of Hope team in making this event a reality was meeting with and gaining the approval of the Watts Gang Task Force to establish a Day of Peace. According to Convoy of Hope Signature Events Director Steve Pulis, not only did this create an opportunity for the community to attend the event without fear of violence, but it established the event as a positive opportunity to help the community.
“When that group came on board and got behind it, we had more than their permission,” Pulis said. “We got the word out among not only gangs, but the entire community — this event is positive, it’s here to help and the gangs are good with it. It has everyone’s support.”
The event took place in Ted Watkins Memorial Park. This is a special place to Convoy of Hope as it was the site of the first Community Event in 1995, only a few years before the park was closed due to violence at a few large park events. The park was closed to large events for 20 years, until the Convoy event in 2017.
Convoy of Hope is grateful for the opportunity to bring hope to Los Angeles and the Watts neighborhood, but the work is not done yet. Convoy has already planned to return for another Community Event on December 1, 2018.