Second ‘Love Elgin Day’ draws hundreds to local churches
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News September 30, 2012 9:26PM
A volunteer organizes donations of canned goods available for visitors at Love Elgin Day, Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Elgin. | Romi Herron ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 2, 2012 6:11AM
ELGIN — Helping coordinate Love Elgin Day has been somewhat like orchestrating a live music concert, said the Rev. Jeorge Holmes of Elgin.
The second event of its kind this year, the endeavor drew hundreds Saturday to five local churches, where they were invited to receive free food, personal hygiene items, advice, and the word of God.
“To me, it’s like with a symphony — how there has to be players, instruments and music,” said Holmes, who is executive pastor of Lamplighter Bible Church in Roselle, a vocalist in his ministry and an entertainer at area restaurants and special events. “So (planning it) was reaching out, asking others to help me, to demonstrate what the kingdom of God would look like if it came to Elgin.”
And on Saturday, that vision came together at First United Methodist Church, Vineyard Church of Elgin, Iglesia Carismatica Puerta de Sion, First Congregational Church and Family Life Church. Those who attended came by way of car, bike and foot. Some guests pushed strollers, and others shopping carts, as they lined up in the basement of First United Methodist for donations of goods. The smell of hot dogs grilling outside added to the experience, which included a free lunch for every person.
Mary Balsis of Elgin volunteered with her husband Curt and son Josh, 16, a student at Burlington Central High School. Although her family belongs to Grace Evangelical Church, their involvement was a natural choice, Mary Balsis said.
“We all just came together,” she said, explaining she also took part in the first Love Elgin Day, held in April. That one drew 1,400 people, twice the goal. And with temperatures in the mid-70s Saturday, she said, Love Elgin Day also featured outdoor outreach opportunities, such as car checks, visits with police and fire departments, and general greetings. Blood pressure and dental checks, and diabetes and hearing screenings were offered free. A chiropractor was also on site to provide spinal checks.
Dozens of youth volunteered at the event, helping unload boxes of food, distributing it to guests and cleaning up.
Holmes said he hopes the children who are volunteering will reach out in their own networks as one way of growing the ministry.
“I hope they communicate that they love serving and being compassionate and praying for families,” he said. “I hope others find that compassion — that feeling that it’s not about me and asking what can I get, it’s about serving.”
Particularly important to Balsis is the service of listening to guests who wish to share their hardships. Registrants were given a form on which to provide optional contact information, so members of the Love Elgin Day ministry can follow up with them about ongoing needs. Some also took advantage of the chance to talk one-on-one with volunteers about their circumstances.
“On my way in this morning, I met someone who was unable to even walk in to the church,” Balsis said. “We were able to bring her food to her car, and she was telling me her story.”
With heart disease, a disability and an abusive family, the woman’s experiences inspired Balsis to remind her of God’s presence.
“I prayed for her and invited her to my church, any church,” she said. “I told her, ‘It sounds like you need a church family. You know, someone to just love on you.’ ”
Holmes said the third Love Elgin Day is set for April 27, 2013. More information is available at www.loveelginday.org.