Fall Festival Unites Community in the Sun City
By: Joanna Estrada
Outreach ministry takes a different shape based on a community’s needs, each program or initiative representing a unique opportunity to uplift, unite, and nurture our neighbors in need. That’s why so many churches across the country dedicate time and resources to hosting fall festivals year after year. At The Salvation Army El Paso Citadel Corps, more than 500 people attended the 2023 Fall Festival, doubling the numbers from last year’s event.
This year’s Fall Festival had all the usual entertainment: food, games, bounce houses, trunk-or-treating, costumes, music, even pony rides and a kiddie train! Everything was completely free which was a big surprise for newcomers. Offering free, family-friendly events open to the community is a cornerstone of The Salvation Army’s outreach efforts in El Paso, Texas.
In fact, one of the main goals of this event was to make enjoyable and family-oriented activities accessible to all, regardless of their financial circumstances. “Our commitment goes beyond the festivities,” said Major Eloisa Estrada, commanding officer. “It’s about creating a welcoming space for every member of our community and building meaningful relationships with our neighbors.”
Those neighbors at the Fall Festival included newcomers, soldiers, church members, shelter residents, advisory board members, employees, sponsors, and volunteers.
In their regular roles, volunteers often operate in the background, creating a significant impact without always having opportunity to see direct results. This can be true of many volunteer assignments, such as food box preparation or donation sorting at the thrift store. “Our volunteers do amazing work year-round,” said Brenda Sanchez, volunteer coordinator. “With the Fall Festival, we wanted them to have fun and see firsthand the joy they brought to others.”
The same applies to community partners and sponsors participating in the event: Little Caesars, Dunkin’, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Dave & Buster’s, Boy Scouts of America, Society for Neuroscience, and the El Paso Public Library. The experience of contributing to a fun event, in contrast to their routine responsibilities, rejuvenated their passion for service and strengthened their connection to The Salvation Army’s mission.
“We succeeded in our goals to strengthen our relationships within the community and to remind our neighbors that The Salvation Army is here, and our doors are open,” said Major Eloisa Estrada.