WINONA LAKE — There are dozens upon dozens of reasons why so many people turn out for the annual We Care Warsaw, but coats and free haircuts certainly appear to be popular choices.
Tiffany Rodriguez, of Warsaw, was one of 1,215 people to file into the Gordon Health and Wellness Center on the campus of Grace College where the 12th annual We Care Warsaw was held Saturday, Nov. 16.
Rodriguez, who is expecting, came with her two children, her mom and stepfather and a friend. She said she was looking forward to checking out the winter coats, Christmas decorations and laundry soap made available free of charge.
“I think it’s especially nice for families that struggle or are in need of help. They can come here and get a free coat to keep them warm in the winter,” she said while standing in a long line waiting to enter the gym area where the event was held.
Kaidence Carey and Drake Milford brought their son, Lennon,
who will be two in February. They had never heard of We Care Warsaw until this year when a woman with Early Headstart shared the details.
“We didn’t even know it was going on — and it’s a big thing,” Kaidence Carey said.
“We’re really excited about the haircuts and the free services. They got the haircuts, family photo, all that good stuff.”
As Carey would attest, there was a lot to be had.
The event distributed several thousand dollars in gift cards, 36 gift baskets, 388 toys, 250 bottles of detergent, 246 family photos and 175 haircuts. Winter coats were provided by Combined Community Services.
Numerous social service agencies and other groups hosted booths.
A free full-course meal was served next door at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church.
Several hairstylists, manicurists, and photographers worked non-stop for several hours.
By mid-afternoon, Crystal Reed, owner of Bar’lon Haircuts for Men, was freshening up Scott Frush’s buzz cut. Reed has been volunteering for several years.
“I love to make people feel good” Reed said.
Mark Rank, Winona Lake Grace Brethren’s pastor for community impact who oversees We Care Warsaw, said last year’s event attracted 920. Saturday’s 1,200 visitors topped the previous high of about 1,100 established a few years ago.