Celebration of Hope Week

"... we exult in hope of the glory of God. ... knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint...."

Romans 5:2-5

"Hope is like the dandelion gently blowing across the fields.

Hope flourishes in unexpected places and thrives in unfertile soil.

Hope spreads rapidly and is very difficult to kill.

And, hope always brings a smile to the face of everyone it touches.

Hope is - the breath of life."

June Morse, HopeCircle

Hope is a unifying thread of life that gives us strength, power, values and courage to face the tribulations and unknowns in life. HopeCircle, a division of NEA Clinic's Charitable Foundation, has planned a weeklong series of events to highlight the spirit of hope and its importance in the life of our community.

"The Breath of Life" is the theme of the first Celebration of Hope week scheduled for Sept. 25 through Oct. 1.  Businesses, organizations, churches, schools and individuals have been invited to participate in the celebration through community events and activities within their own organizations.

The concept for the celebration was born when Brenda Wiseman, HopeCircle director, and June Morse, volunteer coordinator, read a book by Dr. Ronna Jevne, founder of The Hope Foundation of Alberta (Canada). Interested in learning more about his foundation, they began researching the organization's website and discovered the foundation sponsored a Week of Hope. Wiseman and Morse quickly saw that The Hope Foundation's data reinforced what HopeCircle had seen repeatedly in its work; that hope is essential to life and that it is something to be celebrated and encouraged.

Within days, HopeCircle began working with The Hope Foundation of Alberta to develop a similar week of hope in Jonesboro, the first such weeklong celebration in the United States.

"Because of the experience their community gained through that week, we wanted to try that here," Wiseman said.

HopeCircle also wanted to use the week to bring the community together under one common theme. HopeCircle sent out invitations to 30 individuals involved in the community through organizations, businesses or local government to be part of a task force; twenty-eight of those attended the first meeting.

"Most of our (organization's) missions involve a hopeful statement and that's what we're all about," said Morse. "We're putting words to what's happening in our community. It's really about making hope intentional and celebrating its value."

To promote the Celebration of Hope, a drawing of a dandelion blowing in the breeze was created to use on posters, signs and other promotional material. Wiseman said while the dandelion may be a surprising symbol of hope, the task force quickly realized how appropriate the artwork applied to the week: "it makes people smile, grows almost anywhere, is easily spread and is almost impossible to kill."

Wiseman said while this year is a building and learning experience, the response from other agencies and businesses in the area has been supportive

"This will be a first annual event based on the incredible response we've had," Wiseman said. "Hope will be the bridge to connect all of our community.

The week's events will begin on Monday, Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m. with a community kick-off at the Craighead County Courthouse. Proclamations will be issued by Mayor Doug Formon and the county judge's office recognizing "Celebration of Hope" week. Loretta Bookout, wife of the late State Representative Jerry Bookout, will speak on the value of hope. The honor guards of the Jonesboro police and fire departments will also take part in the ceremony and a ceremonial dove release will take place.

Two other exciting events to be held that afternoon will be the dedication of a water fountain, "Commemorating Hope" by Jason Wilkey, located across from the courthouse and the announcement of the planned Garden of Hope location.

The "Celebration of Hope" week will conclude on Sunday, Oct. 1 as churches are invited to share in the festivities. Several churches have announced that their ministers will share a Sunday morning messages on the subject of hope. Others will share with the community through newsletters and outdoor signs.

"Many of the churches might not be doing an actual sermon, but are just making it apart of the Sunday service," said Wiseman.

HopeCircle officials said they have found through unofficial research that 95 percent of people find hope through their faith.

"We wanted to end the week with something that seems to be most significant to people," said Wiseman.

A number of other events have been scheduled throughout the week including "Hope Through the Path of Prayer" sponsored by First United Methodist Church. The church will conduct a labyrinth walk on Wednesday evening, Sept. 27 at 6.

Sara Howell's Studio and Gallery will sponsor "The Art of Hope" throughout the week. The gallery will display winners of several local schools' art contest by kindergarten through third graders.

KASU, Triple FM and Clear Channel will broadcast various programming in support of the week and have titled their theme "Hope Rocks."

For groups who have not made plans to participate, Wiseman emphasized it is not too late to join in "Celebration of Hope." Businesses, churches and non-profits can fit activities to match their own purpose. A few suggestions include distributingquotes about hope through e-mail or on posters, adopting a service project or handing out items to customers reminding them about hope.

"There will be meaningful things going on in businesses and classrooms that will never be public," said Wiseman.

For a complete list of activities during "Celebration of Hope," contact HopeCircle at 934-5214.

"We want hope to run rampant through the community," said Morse.