Celebration offers avenue for awareness

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By Marty Finley

Elizabethtown’s Heartland Festival is pliable in its purpose. While primarily an entertainment outlet for families on a sun-drenched Saturday, it also was a vehicle for awareness and fundraising.

Of the more than 100 vendors who set up in Freeman Lake Park, churches and nonprofit organizations mingled in the mix to raise money for programming, give away prizes and bring attention to what they view as vital causes.

Hearts of Hope Homeless Shelter, which is being constructed inside Powerhouse of Praise and Deliverance Center in Radcliff, set up a booth at the park, selling hamburgers and other foods to raise money toward its completion. Vince Blackmon, treasurer for the shelter, manned the grill and said the shelter is about 75 percent complete.

It will be the first overnight shelter in Hardin County, offering refuge to more than a dozen individuals in single and family rooms, according to organizers.

Blackmon said materials and supplies to build the shelter were donated. Likewise, food and supplies for Saturday’s booth at the festival were donated, he said.

The church and shelter are separate entities, and the congregation is expected to relocate to another facility in the near future, Blackmon said.

Blackmon said the shelter only can be possible through volunteerism, donations and fundraising.

“The mission is no one is left outside,” he said. “We want to be a blessing to children, men, women and veterans alike.”

First Baptist Church in Elizabethtown has been intertwined with Heartland Festival since its earliest days, said the Rev. B.T. Bishop. The church has only missed one or two festivals and tries to secure the same spot every year because it is easier for visitors to find them, he said.

Church members were cooking and selling catfish dinners and barbecued chicken Saturday, the proceeds of which will be pooled back into the church for programming, Bishop said.

“These boys do a pretty good job on this barbecue,” he said.

Bishop said the Heartland Festival is a blessing for Elizabethtown and an event that has matured as the city has grown.

“It brings folks together,” he said.

Mission Hope for Kids, a local organization that assists at-risk youth, offered an information booth about its services but also organized a raffle and sold dinner plates to raise money. Items being raffled included quilts, gift cards and bicycles, said Executive Director Nelle Thomas.

“This is our first one so we’re newbies,” she said of the festival.  

The organization developed out of the Kids’ Café program, which offered hot meals to youth. It now focuses on academics, spiritual and moral development, education and physical needs, such as food and clothing.

The crowd was slow for the fundraising arm of Mission Hope for Kids Saturday morning, but Thomas said an outpouring of interest had come from visitors who saw the booths and wanted to learn more. She said many who approached her had never heard of Mission Hope for Kids, which helped them spread the word.

“I think we’ll do it again,” she said of the festival.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com,