By: Tina Cook
Many thanks to my fellow ALMA member, Freddy Leonard, for collaborating with me on this article.

“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 2017 by the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.8 % of Limestone County residents live below the poverty level. This means that about 12,083 of our fellow residents struggle just to keep food on the table, clothes on their back, and to 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, LCCI (Limestone County Churches Involved) which feeds our hungry and homeless residents.

Members of ALMA have a determined passion when it comes to living out the mission of our group. Almost two years ago, we decided to undertake a big event that would not only make a difference for one day but have a rippling effect long afterwards. We have been working toward the event day of November 3, 2018 ever since! The event is called Convoy of Hope Limestone County.* Early that morning hundreds of local volunteers, known for the day as the Convoy Kindness Crew, will serve thousands of 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 Convoy Kindness Crew or a Convoy Guest of Honor! Or perhaps you are an individual or corporation who can make a monetary donation to help fund an event that will have great impact for so many; we need you! If you are someone with goods or services to offer, we need you, too! Whoever you are and wherever you fit into Convoy of Hope, 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 an opportunity for our community to make many of those moments. It has the power to bind us together not as givers and receivers but rather as 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.” To volunteer or donate, please see the contact information below.
By: Tina Cook

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