Thinking she was arriving late for the picnic on the east lawn of Veterans Memorial, the woman asked whether she might still have a haircut. She wanted to look good, she told the organizers, in case she happened to see her mom at the event, sponsored annually by the nonprofit Homeless Outreach Programs and Events.
Thinking she was arriving late for the picnic on the east lawn of Veterans Memorial, the woman asked whether she might still have a haircut.
She wanted to look good, she told the organizers, in case she happened to see her mom at the event, sponsored annually by the nonprofit Homeless Outreach Programs and Events.
Both she and her mother are homeless, she explained, so she had made a point of attending the gathering in the hope of seeing her again.
The woman, her hair freshly cut, was later spotted talking and sharing a meal with her mother, recalled Christine Broas, a Gahanna resident who started the picnic in 2004.
"It was a joyful and tearful moment. She got the chance to rekindle the relationship."
The idea of touching the heart of even just one person, Broas said, is justification enough for the H.O.P.E. gathering - where, in addition to having haircuts, attendees eat lunch and take advantage of other free services: flu shots, hepatitis B shots, foot washes as a way to check for diabetes, HIV testing and counseling, diabetes counseling and more.
A "store" also distributes free clothes, shoes, shampoo, deodorant, lotion and other toiletries.
"We recognize that homeless people have transportation issues - situations that prevent them from getting where they need to be to get help - so we offer them as many services as possible in one day," Broas said.
With the 2013 picnic scheduled for Saturday, more than 100 volunteers - including about 75 from Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna - are gathering donations and helping with other preparations. The event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., is expected to attract more than 2,000 people.
"I was blown away by all the activities, medical professionals, clothing, music and people serving meals," said Gahanna resident Karen McClain, recalling her first stint volunteering last year. "There were thousands of people on this big lawn, but Christine was so graceful and relaxed about it. Christine and the work she does really give these people hope."
Sue Villilo - executive director of Faith Mission, a nonprofit local shelter that operates an information table at the picnic each year - also offered high praise.
"People are happy to be at an uplifting event that reaches beyond the homeless to people on the brink of homelessness," Villilo said. "And Chris is amazing: She can rally folks, get people involved, motivate them and organize everything at the same time."
About 350 people attended the first H.O.P.E. picnic, which offered only haircuts and lunch Downtown at Bicentennial Park, said Broas' husband, Terry.
"It started out as a seed," he said, "and has grown to be so much more."
Peace Lutheran, where the Broases worship, has been instrumental in the picnic since the start.
The Rev. Kai Nilsen, head pastor at the church, said the event has upsides not only for the recipients but for the volunteers, too.
"It gets us out of the suburbs and reminds us of people experiencing life very differently from the way we do," he said. "The main value is to extend the love of Christ to those who are homeless - part of our core call as a Christian community."
Through the work, he said, Christine Broas illustrates an admirable "tenacity of spirit."
"It's a great example to me of when God places a restlessness in someone's heart. Remarkable things can happen when someone receives a call and takes the time and energy to follow it."