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Rock Church Youth Give Back to Their Community
By Shawn Maree McCowan

San Diego, CA - March 28, 2011 - Imagine spending your birthday focused on giving a gift, instead of getting one.

That's just what 17-year-old Kelsey Manner did on Saturday, March 26, 2011, when she invited friends to spend her birthday cleaning up the Serra Mesa recreation center.

"I put it out to my group that I wanted to do something for my birthday," said Manner. "I wanted to make a difference."

The event was part of the Do Something World campaign, which encourages people to use their time and talents to actively improve their community. In 2010, Rock Church volunteers amassed 706,212 service hours, with 228,765 hours dedicated to projects identified by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, saving the city over $4 million.

Nearly 600 volunteers showed up for Saturday's event-- many well before 7 AM -- and joined one of 12 teams to paint, clear debris, weed, mulch, and plant flowers at the Serra Mesa Recreation Center.

Pastor Miles McPherson said he is always amazed at DSW turnouts, but he was surprised at how much work was done at the center, even before the scheduled 8 AM start time.

"I was really shocked at how many people got here so early," said McPherson. "When I got here volunteers were all over the canyon and everywhere. Probably one of the most satisfying things is to see people do something with their changed lives."

Rock kids of all ages joined their families in the work, encouraged by their parents and leaders to live out their Christian faith by serving the community. "We call it 'Youth Something,'" said Britannee Loper, a leader in the Rock Jr. High ministry. "Everybody is expected to serve, it doesn't matter how old you are."

Roman West, 13, is a member of the Jr. High's Core team, a group of middle school students who are being challenged and trained as leaders. He flubbed it a little, but quoted the ministry's theme verse from 1 Timothy 4:21: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

The group enthusiastically painted a cement retaining wall behind the home plate of the baseball field. Many of the kids looked forward to the opportunity of serving just to get messy.Councilwoman Lori Zapf, whose district encompasses the park, thanked the participants: "I'm so thrilled for our district. Thank you all so much for doing something in our community. Government can't do it all."

Kelly Wood, area manager for San Diego Parks & Rec., was also grateful for the amount of work being done.

"You just can't get this kind of help these days," said Wood. "This was supposed to be just a canyon cleanout and as we started meeting it became this huge wish list -- and we're getting everything done."

Rock writer Shelley Gilbert contributed to this story.

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