By Doreen Rekoski, Cory Detwiler and Amy Mundo
Rock Church celebrated military families throughout San Diego County on August 23 with a community event serving them by providing a day of fun to spend with their families. The 1st Annual Boots Off: Our Turn to Serve You event featured among other things free lunch, free haircuts, free school supplies and children’s activities to those attending the event.
The multi-site event was held in Point Loma, East County and North County in order to serve the military families surrounding each of the Rock Church campuses. There are an estimated 175,000 military personnel and their families living in the San Diego area.
Over 400 volunteers donated their time at the various sites staffing all areas of the event, from registration and set up to cooking and providing free kids activities. Over 2500 meals were served to an estimated 1500 guests who attended the multi-site event and over 1,600 bags of school supplies were given to families as well.
POINT LOMA (LIBERTY STATION SOUTH PROMENADE)
In June, six days after they arrived at their new duty station in San Diego, Sara Carroll’s husband left Naval Base San Diego onboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu for a six-month deployment. “This is our second move back to San Diego, but most of the people I knew back then have moved on,” said Carroll. She doesn’t work, choosing instead to stay home with her three boys, Avery, Myles and Jonah. And while she would not have it any other way, she finds it hard to make new friends. “Sometimes I feel so alone,” said Carroll.
This is a common theme for most military families who move an average of every two to three years. Military children generally move 6 to 9 times during their K-12 school years.
Carroll, a Rock attendee, came to the event to reconnect with others and get the children out of the house. She wants to meet new people and establish herself in the community.
The celebration had something for everyone. For Roxanne Wiersema, it was Mission Focused Photography, a non-profit organization with a special heart for military families, who were at the event to provide family photos. “We came particularly to get a family portrait,” said Wiersema. “Everytime we go to a military event like this we like to get our portrait taken so we have a timeline of photos of the family,” said Wiersema. Her husband, Jacob, stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, has been in the Navy for seven years and deployed to Iraq three times. They have two children, Dylan and Ellie.
“I’m not the hero,” said Wiersema. “My husband is, but this event makes me feel special. I feel like this event was geared especially for us, the family.”
Amanda Case enjoyed the free haircut provided by the Makeover Ministry for herself and daughter Penelope. “We can’t normally afford to get our hair cut,” said Case. “I cut my husband’s hair. It’s hard to make ends meet on an E-5 salary. We don’t have a lot of extra money to spend. This event shows how Rock Church supports the military. It’s a fun event and there’s lots of free things to do together.”
Present at the Liberty Station site were 180 volunteers ready to serve military families in areas such as guest registration, food service, and a kids zone complete with face painting, balloon animals, and cotton candy. There were also free massages for the adults present, and even an area where families could send their deployed loved ones cards and letters. An amazing 1,500 free lunches were served to guests present at the event as well.
EAST COUNTY (LINCOLN MILITARY HOUSING, LAKESIDE)
Similar to other locations, Boots Off East County consisted of free food, free haircuts and fun for the kids. Military wife and volunteer Jamie Robinson, an East County resident, helped the church reserve the event location. Robinson, a Rock Church member, serves in the Rock Kids and Silver Angels ministries at Rock East County. “Housing has events, but they are not Christian based, so this made it better,” said Robinson. She said the best part about the event is that it was community based, introducing the community to the church.
Boots Off brought people from many backgrounds together for this event. Andrew Martzall, a Navy sailor, brought his family after hearing about the event through an email flyer given to him by a neighbor who also attends the Rock Church. Martzall attended the event to fellowship with neighbors and fellow Christians. “The hospitality, friendliness and fellowship stand out most to me,” said Martzall. Not only was he glad his children enjoyed the kid’s activities, he was able to get information about the homeless ministry at Rock Church.
Yesenia Escobedo makes sure she attends every community event to make new friends and allow her children to connect with the community. She has lived in the community for one year. “This event is good and full of fun for the kids,” said Escobedo. Both of her sons loved the free haircuts received from the Makeover Ministry – just in time for the school year.
The East County location saw 112 volunteers come out to serve 253 of their military neighbors the day-of the event. Volunteers gave out 478 meals to attendees, gave away 52 haircuts, and made 227 balloon animals. Rock Church East County ministries were also present to get attendees connected in their area of need.
NORTH COUNTY (CAMP PENDLETON)
A Marine and his family walked onto the field at Lake O’Neill at Camp Pendleton where Rock Church North County partnered with Marine Air Group 39 to host the Boots Off event for military families. Their four kids beamed with excitement as they spotted the bounce house and blow up obstacle course. The parents were grateful to receive school supplies for each of their children. Mom was just pleased to be celebrating her birthday with her family, especially after a hectic week in which the one computer used to home school the children crashed.
At the Boots Off event, computers were being given away. This family won three of them! Now, school will be much better for the kids and mom.
Rock Church North County had 88 volunteers the day of the event, serving in various places such as registration, the youth fun zone, the prayer tent, the food zone, parking/safety, and stage entertainment. Not only were the youth of Rock Church NC present, they were also serving the military families. The Women’s Ministry and Iron Men also had booths available for people to receive information, free books, and free Bibles. School supplies were provided for 105 school-aged children and 544 free lunches were served.
Marine Brandon Lundy, and his wife Kyndra, love these kinds of events. “It’s hard moving all the time,” said Brandon.” So it’s nice to get together.” Kyndra said she enjoyed watching her two older children having fun racing in the blow up obstacle course.
Marlene Rangel, a Marine wife, said she would definitely return to other events like this. Her son is starting kindergarten this year, and her family thought this was a great back to school experience.
Lena Fooks, one of the volunteers, prayed with many of the families. She said, “They were so blessed and grateful to be here!” The 1st Annual Boots Off event was a great success as volunteers from three Rock Church locations served members of the military through out San Diego County. This will be the first of many events serving multiple locations as part of the Rock Church’s vision of establishing pervasive hope all over San Diego.
To serve military year-round, or if you’re in the military and looking for support and connections, check out the Rock Military Ministry!
For more information about the Military Ministry, click here »