For six hours Saturday, more than 2,000 volunteers tried to serve 6,000 people who sought help at the third annual Convoy of Hope at Cal Expo.
Many lined up the night before hoping to get teeth extracted, while some came exclusively for food. Others waited to land a job. But they all had one thing in common they wanted help.
"The need has grown," said Convoy of Hope coordinator Robin Smith.
The economy was clearly on people's minds during the free event.
"I just want a job," said Melvin Peeples, 55. "I've been rejected by Home Depot six times."
The south Sacramento resident waited patiently to apply with Wal-Mart his third try, after being turned down twice by the retail giant. Peeples lost his job as a delivery driver in 2010 and hasn't been employed since. The same subdued sentiment was echoed by others, even volunteers.
"I want to say the economy is getting better, but unemployment is up," said Della Johnson, a volunteer who was busy editing résumés.
Among those in the crowd were people seeking aid for the first time, including Sacramento's Tatiana Davis.
"It's hard right now," said the 22-year-old mother of two.
Being nine months pregnant didn't stop her from making the trip to Cal Expo. Davis was picking out clothes for her new baby. Though her husband is employed, she said they needed whatever help they could get.
The all-volunteer Christian-based event has served 25,000 people since its inception. About 250 churches pitched in to help Saturday, but praying was not required.
"We're not trying to shove Jesus down anyone's throat," said Pastor Dan Axtell, 42, of Restoration Life Church in Sacramento.
That being said, the pastor added, the event helped bridge religious divides.
"Muslims and Buddhists are coming to us, asking if we can pray together," he said.
With the economy still in recovery mode, organizers had anticipated a much larger crowd than in previous years estimating up to 20,000 would attend. To prepare, they trucked in 400,000 pounds of food and four large truckloads of clothing.
But with the total head count in at 4 p.m., organizers said only 6,000 people attended. In comparison, 13,000 turned out last year and in 2010, 7,000 showed up.
Smith cited the late summer heat as the reason for the lower-than-expected turnout.
For many, free medical care was the main draw. Peeples lined up Friday night, hoping to get his eyes checked, but there weren't enough doctors on hand to see him. Others left equally disappointed, including Sacramento City College student Lyda Smith.
Smith, 27, came with her husband and newborn baby so she could get her fillings replaced. After being turned away, she decided to get a haircut instead, waiting for her turn underneath the bright sun. Her insurance doesn't cover fillings, she said.
Event volunteers young and old were trying to do good.
"We're just trying to make a difference," said Brian Pate-Newberry, a sixth-grader from Natomas Charter School who volunteered to help. "It's a great cause."
Tommy Clements, 32, of Citrus Heights was one of 13 dentists staffing the event. The dentists served more than 100 people in mid-90s heat.
"Some haven't seen a dentist in years," Clements said. "They are all very grateful."
GALLERY For more images of the Sacramento Convoy of Hope at Cal Expo, go to sacbee.com/multimedia