Hundreds of people attended HopeFest 2011 Sunday to honor the heroes of 9/11, remember the victims of the devastating attacks and pay tribute by serving their communities.
HopeFest, an event sponsored by three area United Methodist Church congregations, started at 7:30 a.m. with the arrival of a 200-pound steel beam that was once part of the World Trade Center in New York at Maine East High School in Park Ridge. The beam, which has been donated to the Village of Park Ridge, will be put on permanent display at an as yet undetermined location.
Throughout the day volunteers helped with blood drives and donated blood at two sites, participated in family-friendly CPR and disaster response/relief classes, collected food for local pantries and completed cleaning and repair projects at several sites in the Des Plaines and Park Ridge area.
Volunteers also assembled “thank you” bags with baked goods, prayer squares and thank-you notes to first responders including police officers, firefighters and emergency room workers.
Among those packing the bags and hefting cans and boxes of food was Julie Bruno, a member of New Hope United Methodist Church in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood, one of three congregations that organized the event.
"Today really is about reclaiming the day for hope," Bruno said. "We're part of New Hope Church, and that is what we are creating."
First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge and First United Methodist Church of Des Plaines also organized the event, and United Methodist Communications was a partner.
Major Dave Dalberg of the Salvation Army said the Salvation Army did at HopeFest what it does after disasters: provide tangible, practical services. At HopeFest, that meant feeding volunteers from the mobile canteen.
Dalberg, who served at Ground Zero for months after the attacks, said the yearlong planning process for HopeFest was just as valuable as the day itself in terms of building relationships among the organizations and creating a sense of community.
Bruno said she appreciated the flow of the day, from a solemn service where the World Trade Center beam was unveiled in the morning, through hours of hard but fun work, to an afternoon celebration.
The day wrapped up with an hour and a half of music, refreshments, speakers and fellowship at Maine East High School.
Dalberg said while there would be memorial services all over the world to commemorate 9/11, none captured the resiliency and the spirit of cooperation that flourished after the attacks better than HopeFest.
"It's more than a commemoration," he said. "It's a celebration—I'd like to suggest it's a celebration of life."
Community partners included Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Maine Township Emergency Food Depository, LifeSource Blood Services, The Salvation Army, the Park Ridge Youth Campus, Des Plaines Self Help Closet and Pantry, New Hope Food Pantry, Avenues to Independence, Bethany Terrace, Resurrection Hospital and local police and fire departments.