By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
The Etowah Baptist Mission Center is hosting its 4th annual Hope It Floats Cardboard Boat Race on Saturday, July 22. The races will be held at Rainbow Landing under the Southside Bridge on the Rainbow City side. Racers must bring their boats to Rainbow Landing by 8:30 a.m. for boat inspection, and the races start at 10:30 a.m.
The cardboard boat race invites people to build boats made of mostly cardboard and duct tape in a kayak style. The goal is to be the fastest, but as you can imagine, cardboard boats don’t always perform as planned. Three awards will be presented after the races: one for the fastest time, one for the best design and the Titanic award, which recognizes a cardboard boat that sank during the race. An award ceremony will be held after the races. Winners will receive prizes and a wooden paddle with a plaque to commemorate the achievement.
Registration is $125 and will be accepted until the day of the event. Water rescue emergency teams are on hand, just in case.
Ashley Baccus, the center’s administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator, invites everyone to “come with a cheerful heart and cheer everyone on.”
Watching the races is free, but there are several ways spectators can support the Mission Center. Tickets will be available for $1 each, so spectators can vote on their favorite designs by dropping tickets into corresponding buckets. These votes decide the best design award winner.
“Some of them, you can tell, they spent time and put a lot of thought into their boat design,” said Baccus.
Rubber ducks will also be rented out for $1. Each duck has a number that corresponds to a prize, and every duck wins. After the races, all the boats that did not win will participate in the Duck Scramble. Attendees will throw the duck into the water, and the boats try to catch as many as they can with a net to win a prize.
Turbo’s Concessions will be selling hotdogs, nachos, shaved ice and more. Turbo’s donates to the center from the sales of concessions. T-shirts will be on sale for $10.
“A lot of cool stories have come out of this,” said Baccus. “I see them as testimonies, because everything we do at the center, we want to lead people to Christ. It has brought families together, grandparents with their grandchildren. We’ve had stories of family members that did not get along, but in the process of preparing for the race, it helped them build their relationship by being able to work together to do that. That’s what it’s about. If we can touch lives indirectly by doing this, then it’s worth every bit of it.”
About 30 volunteers come out to help the center make this event a success. Last year, the Hope It Floats Cardboard Boat Race raised $6,693. All the money raised through the event goes to assist the Etowah Baptist Mission Center’s many ministries.
The center began 30 years ago when a handful of people from different churches decided to distribute basics. The center runs solely through volunteers and donations from the community. The center also holds a soup lunch fundraiser in the fall. For a $10 donation, attendees are treated to a lunch of soup and a sandwich.
As a food pantry, the center provides food to those in need on a regular basis. During the holidays, the center provides food baskets filled with all the makings for a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. For Christmas, the center adopts families, providing them with toys from the “toy shop” set up in one of the center’s three buildings. The shop allows the families to select the items they would like. The center provides donated clothes that clients can select from another volunteer set up store. In the case of emergency situations, the center can provide household items like dishes, small kitchen appliances, hygiene products and linens. The center even helps expecting mothers with necessary items during a monthly baby shower. Clients with children are given “birthday bags” with supplies for parties and a gift for the child. Beginning in August, the center will distribute school supplies. Financial assistance is available to help those in dire need receive identification, prescription assistance, transportation assistance and help with utilities and rent. The center recently added its fourth building, and is in the process of organizing career prep and English as a second language classes.
“Whatever the need is, if God supplies a need, we will do it,” said Baccus. “He always comes through.”
If you cannot attend the event but want to support the Etowah Baptist Mission Center, donations and volunteers are always welcome. You can donate to the center with PayPal on its website at www.etowahbaptistmissioncenter.com and its Facebook page. Donations can also be dropped off in person or mailed to the center’s address at 221 Wall Street in Gadsden. For more information or to volunteer, call 256-546-2980.