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Hope Day comes to Greenport and aims to empower and help the local community

Michael and Cheryl Taormina at Truth Community Church. Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

Hope Day, a one-day event hosted by dozens of churches and organizations with multiple locations across Long Island, New York City and New Jersey that provides dozens of free services for the community— from groceries and kids’ activities to hair cuts and health screenings— is coming to Greenport tomorrow.

The event will take place at the Polo Grounds on Moore’s Lane from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It’s all about meeting our community needs and bringing awareness to our neighborhood,” said Pastor Keith Indovino of Truth Community Church, which first brought the event to Flanders in 2016,”to love people and to help them,” he said.

True Light Church in Cutchogue is coordinating the Greenport event. The local churches are among a network of churches hosting Hope Day events tomorrow.

Some of the free services and activities that will be available to visitors — called “guests of honor”—either at the Flanders or Greenport locations, or both, include: hot lunches, non-invasive medical screenings, free groceries and clothing, family portraits, a kids area with games, a bounce house, face painting, a rock wall, an obstacle course, craft and tattoo stations, cotton candy and popcorn, a free auction-style raffle—each guest will get a coupon for free when they arrive– that will include prizes and gift baskets such as Panera Bread for a year and Applebee’s gift certificates among others.

“Together we can do more than we can do alone,” said Hope Day Network Coordinator Michael Taormina, a Shoreham resident who has been a part of the movement since its inception in 2012.

“Everybody needs hope sometime in their life,” he said.

Michael Taormina and Truth Community Church pastor Keith Indovino
Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

The organizing churches will also collaborate with different local community organizations and private individuals who are sponsoring the event through donations or by volunteering their time. Last year alone, Flanders had about 160 volunteers that helped them with different tasks, from setting up the event and staffing the different booths to putting together the gift baskets and helping guests.

“When we partner with our community, with our civic associations, with our elected officials and the church, the impact we can make in a community is tremendous. We can transform our communities for good,” Taormina said.

True Light Church Pastor Keith Benson explained that this kind of partnership was key during Hope Day in this area and he said that their goal was “to meet people’s needs and for them to find the services that are available to them,” he said.

From health insurance companies looking to enroll people in affordable healthcare plans to connection tents that will help people through prayer, there will be several booths and tents offering people an array of free services at both events.

At the Greenport event, ESL services will be provided and the non-profit organization Community Action Southold Town, or CAST, whose aim is to help local low-income residents meet their basic needs, will be present, in addition to other organizations.

At the Flanders event the Southampton Youth Bureau and Southampton Housing Authority will have a tables assisting guests. Peconic Bay Medical Center’s personnel will be performing blood pressure tests and other non-invasive medical screening. The Town of Southampton Police Department will offer free safety training as well as child safety ID kits, where kids are fingerprinted and their information is put on an identification card for safety purposes.

“The only way we can have something like this happen is by people coming together,” Indovino said.

Around 500 guests are expected to attend the Flanders event, said Indovino. The first-ever Hope Day even in Greenport is expecting around 300-500 guests Benson said.

“Although we will be here until 3 p.m. and there will be a lot of services offered and activities ongoing, it is important to arrive early because there are items that will only be available while supplies last,” Indovino said.

Hope Day 2016 in Flanders. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Taormina and his wife Cheryl explained in a recent interview that Hope Day was started in Uniondale in 2012 when pastor Steven Milazzo of Bethlehem Assembly of God and others partnered with Convoy of Hope, an international non-profit organization that provides food and resources to disaster areas in the U.S. and around the world, with the goal of bringing food and other services to people in need in Nassau County.

Benson said that Hope Day organizers found that “instead of getting bigger and bigger it was better to break up the event and reach people at the local level in smaller communities.” The goal, said Taormina and Indovino, is for people to be able to walk to the event and participate and not only get to know their neighbors, but also have their needs met.

“We had a family that left with two bags of free groceries and as they were leaving, the daughter turned and said, ‘mommy we get to eat tonight.’ A woman in the Bronx was rushed to the hospital after a health screening…those are some of the ways we tangibly can help people,” Taormina said.

“Whether is a physical need, an emotional need, any need there is, we all need hope. It gives you the strength to overcome the next day, the next hurdle in your life and we don’t want people to come here just for hope for the day, we want them to have hope for a lifetime” said Cheryl, Taormina’s wife.

Maria Piedrabuena
María, a multimedia reporter, graduated from Stony Brook University with degrees in journalism and women and gender studies. She has worked for several news outlets including News12 and Fortune Magazine. A native of Spain, she loves to read, write and travel. She lives in Manorville. Email Maria