Nationally-televised pastor Joel Osteen stopped by a Detroit church Thursday to help pack more than 500 gift bags for sick children.
Osteen, 53, is working with Impact Church, its officials and volunteers during the launch of the Generation Hope project, a community effort leading up to his “A Night of Hope” event at Comerica Park on Saturday. His wife Victoria will join him for the eighth annual event.
The Texas minister pastors a nondemoninational church of 50,000-plus members in Houston, has eight New York Times bestselling books and a syndicated radio program.
Osteen, in the church tucked inside an east-side neighborhood, was dressed in dark jeans, a short-sleeve black shirt and black ankle boots as he pitched in to help pack the gift bags.
"It felt right coming here," he said. "... I wanted to help encourage the people while seeing the city move forward in a positive direction."
As a part of the Generation Hope Project, two Champions Club Rooms were unveiled at Impact Church. The rooms are designed for special needs children and are equipped with a sensory-and-motor-skills area and a corner for children to learn biblical teachings. Staff members for each room are trained in handling children with disabilities.
Keenann Knox, pastor at Impact Church, said the rooms can be a template for other churches.
"Parents sometimes won't attend church because they have to take care of their children, but now they can come to service knowing that their children are safe and taken care of," Knox said. "With the generous donation from Joel Osteen and his volunteers, we can teach children God-esteem while helping them become better individuals in society."
Volunteers from across the county helped to refurbish the basement into a fellowship hall, while Sarah Maisano, founder of Sick Kids in Pain, or S.K.I.P., assembled gift bags in the cafeteria.
Each bag comes with a coloring book, crayons and a jump rope.
Michelle Blanchette and Mindy Chambers flew in from Orlando, Florida, to volunteer with the Generation Hope Project.
"Michelle heard about the event on Joel Osteen's radio station and called me. I told her we have to do this," Chambers said. "As Christians, it's a good feeling to be able to give your time to a city in need. It's nice to get out of the rat race of life and focus on helping others."
While pulling up weeds and planting flowers in the ally behind S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center, Glad Silva of Houston, Texas, helped pass out water to fellow volunteers.
"I feel proud to be out here and to help contribute to Detroit," Silva said. "We can give the city a face-lift while meeting and inspiring people."
Walter Starghill of Southfield, coordinator of health and fitness programs at Perfecting Church in Detroit, hopes community members will continue with volunteer efforts.
"With everything that is happening in the world today, I hope people can see what volunteering can do for a city," Starghill said. "Everyone coming together helps to build stronger community relationships."
Before Osteen stopped to pray with a volunteer at S.A.Y. Detroit, he paused to look around.
"What I see in the residents of Detroit are great people," he said. "I'm blessed to be here and to be able to do God's work."