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Hope Delivered to 6,000 People During Community Event in Ohio

Ohio church's recovery ministry reaches thousands during one-day event and gives birth to nonprofit to help thousands more.

Recovering from addiction and recently laid off from his job, Rick A. Powell, was seemingly hopeless. Looking to redirect himself, Powell, 56, states that he began searching for a way to selflessly serve as an outlet.

Someone from his 12-step group told him about an outreach by the recovery ministry from an Assemblies of God church in Mentor, Ohio, that delivered hope to the poor, needy, and oppressed.

"It was recommended that I attended a Hope Delivered event. So, I looked for [event leaders], Janelle Unger or Pastor Jason Tatterson, and I asked if there was anything I could do to help. Instead, it was me that was helped, and my life changed forever."

Unger heads up Connections of Hope, an outreach from Freedom Assembly, on the second Friday of every month. Out of that ministry, Unger and colleague, Amber Strnad, put together what they thought would be a small, free event on Aug. 26, 2023, but God had bigger plans.

Billed as "A Day of Hope," that “small event,” officially named Hope Delivered, drew approximately 6,000 people, including Powell, to the Lake County Fairgrounds where 35,000 pounds of groceries were distributed.

As well, hot meals were given away, clothes and shoes were handed out, health and dental screenings were administered, and a job fair hired visitors on the spot. Additionally, area churches offered various ministries such as a prayer tent, Christian counseling, and testimonies from those who formerly struggled with addiction.

At the event, Powell confided in Tatterson, the pastor of Freedom Assembly, about the emptiness and troubles he was having. Tatterson prayed with him and invited him to church.

Powell also received a job offer from a construction company that gives employment opportunities to those with a criminal history and those recovering from addiction.

He began attending Freedom Assembly, accepted Christ, was baptized on Nov. 12, 2023, and is now an active member of the church.

"The church and the support that I find there is the foundation of my new life today," Powell says. “Without Hope Delivered and all of the helpful people I met that day, I don’t believe my life would be as full as it is today."

Strnad, founder and managing director at Northeast Ohio’s Fight Against Addiction, recalls that when the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc and isolation upon many, it was clear that God's hope was needed more than ever.

"God led us to create Hope Delivered, not just as an aid organization, but as a beacon of His eternal hope," says Strnad, 34, co-founder of Hope Delivered. "This Day of Hope was created to address both spiritual and earthly needs with Jesus Christ at its core. It touched my heart to see how God moved through the hundreds of volunteers, businesses, organizations, and politicians who God used to share His love on that day."

Unger recounts that on Aug. 24, just two days before Hope Delivered’s outreach, Lake County was hit by a tornado and several areas were without power. Residents lost their food, and houses were severely damaged by wind and trees.

"For some, they were able to come get a hot meal and groceries, and the kids could play to take their minds off of what just occurred. Others came for prayer," recalls Unger, 57, who is a former addict. "There were approximately 50 people who received Christ during Hope Delivered. We had 30 churches involved. Politicians and the health department endorsed us, volunteered during the event, and even financially donated. We got a glimpse that day [of] what God can do with a unified church. It is limitless."

Bryan Sandella, pastor of the Church House of Living Stones, an Assembly of God congregation in Euclid, Ohio, has seen "huge impacts from Hope Delivered."

"From groceries that people received to haircuts to family photos, the normal everyday things that most people take for granted were given freely to anyone who needed them," he says. "'I also personally baptized three young men who gave their lives to the Lord that day. We have grown in relationship with them, and they now attend our church on a regular basis. Hallelujah to God."

Tatterson adds, "I loved seeing so many churches working side by side from beginning to end. I also know that the foot we put forward that day reminded the community that the church is there, and we do care. Our challenge in each local church is to continue on with this idea of focusing more outward than we sometimes have a tendency to do."

Unger says they have established a nonprofit called Hope Delivered NEO and are working on a 501c3 status.

"Our vision is to hold small pop-up events and collaborate with other churches and Christian nonprofits to help their vision outreach projects," she says.

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.