RUMFORD — The Praise Assembly of God Church will host its second annual Culture of Compassion event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the DARE Field at Lincoln and Falmouth avenues.

Mission coordinator Brandie Ledesma said the purpose is to “share compassion with the people around us, sort of like paying it forward.”

The event will offer free groceries, gently used clothing and school supplies to needy families in the area. In addition, there will be a health and dental fair, a children’s zone with a bounce house and a dunk tank. Live entertainment will include Joel and Janna, and Ledesma’s daughter-in-law, Sara Taylor.

Ledesma said she is anticipating nearly 1,200 people to show up. There were 600 last year.

“The first year we did this, we didn’t have any idea what would happen,” Ledesma said. “We only had raw numbers to plan with, and nothing definite in place. We had planned for 4,000 and ended up having 600 people visit. This year, we have numbers and we have a good idea of what’s happening. We’re anticipating a great turnout.”

Though Ledesma said she expects the numbers to increase, she admitted that the event had grown smaller in one aspect: haircuts.

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“Last year, we had a couple of stylists on hand to provide free haircuts,” she said. “It was one of our more popular booths, and this year, both stylists were busy. We’re still trying to fill in those slots, but there’s a chance we may not have haircuts.”

However, the loss of the stylists was offset by the participation of several Christian colleges that Ledesma contacted. She said the colleges sent free T-shirts and information for children who may be interested in attending college.

Ledesma said she came up with the idea for Culture of Compassion after she heard about the national disaster response and hunger relief group Convoy of Hope.

“The Convoy of Hope helps communities that were hit by some kind of natural disaster or help people who are going hungry,” she said. “As many people already know, Rumford has a lot of issues, whether it’s a large amount of single parents struggling or people struggling with alcoholism. There’s so many obstacles in the way preventing people from seeing hope. I feel our job, as a church, is to show people love and compassion.”

Many local businesses have donated gift certificates and money, but a majority of the money raised by the church comes from private donations.

“Things have been going a lot smoother this year,” Ledesma said. “We hope to continue this event for many years to come. The exit interviews we conducted after last year’s event gave us nothing but positive feedback. We think this year will go just as well.”

For more information, call Praise Assembly of God Church at 364-3586, or stop by and visit at 89 Congress St. in Rumford.

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