At dawn on Saturday morning, long lines of families could already be seen coiling in multiple directions. The very first family in line at the Lincoln High School location had staked their ground at 7AM the day before. Having waited all day and all night, they were still smiling as they anticipated making their way to the toy room. “I’m just glad we are first in line!” Aileen, one of the daughters, said. She and her sister were hoping to win bicycles.
The 22nd Annual Toys for Joy, hosted by Rock Church, was simply incredible! The total amount of guests served this year was nearly 15,000 people. Over 17,000 toys were given away, 191,200 articles of clothing were donated and distributed, and 7,000 bags of groceries were provided to families in need. There were over 3,000 volunteers at three Toys for Joy locations. One of the most amazing aspects was that 1,875 people responded to the Gospel!
1,875 people responded to the Gospel!
Two moms attended the event at Lincoln High School with their children. One of them has been attending for three years and she said, “I am just so grateful that you guys do this and are just so generous!” The other mom, who was attending for the first time, also expressed her gratitude because she has two kids at home and no job at the moment. But she was so thankful to “get back into being a mom.” She is now a year sober and no longer homeless. Her favorite part about Toys for Joy was getting to spend the entire day with her children and friends and witness them with pure joy on their faces.
After watching the Abandoned Before God Dance Ministry perform a spectacular Christmas dance, theses moms, their children, and countless other families heard a Gospel message (in Spanish and English) and were offered the opportunity to accept Jesus as their savior.
Then came the most anticipated moment for the children. The Toy Room. An entire gymnasium filled to the brim with every toy imaginable. Every kid’s eyes could not contain their joy. Their minds could not fathom all the choices they had, but with searching, and the help of volunteers, they found the toy they wanted.
Cynthia was grateful for finally finding an apartment after five years of being homeless. She recognized the importance of the event for homeless parents and children, as well as single mothers. She was anticipating the joy her children would receive from a toy, but also for the hot dogs. Her kids love hot dogs.
Aside from the thousands of toys that are distributed every Toys for Joy, over 16,000 free lunches were also provided for the families, along with thousands of bags of groceries. At the Lincoln location, the Rock Thrift Store in partnership with Angels Closet created a store onsite where families could get as much gently-used clothing as they needed for free.
One mother waited in line at 5:30AM with her son at Guajome Park Academy in Vista. She was full of enthusiasm and excitement, even though the school she was attending had just closed without giving advance notice to the students. She had one more year to go to become a Radiology Technician, yet she remained cheerful. She remained steadfast in her dream and understood that though her education was abruptly ended, what she learned was still with her. “I still have my books, my stethoscope, and my knowledge.” She was grateful and was happy to be with her son to allow him to enjoy a gift which had become increasingly more difficult for her to provide.
On the Family Field, children sat and played with their toys or bounced around in the jumpers. Families grouped together on the grass and watched dancers, hula-hoop contests, and listened to musicians on stage. The kids made crafts and played with their balloon animals. Girls showed off their newly painted nails from the manicure station and others smiled at themselves in the mirror because of the new haircut they received.
All three Toys for Joy locations gave away free haircuts. 472 haircuts to be exact. One mother mentioned that she was able to give her son his very first haircut at Toys for Joy, something she couldn’t do on her own otherwise.
Michelle Piña, one of the volunteers at the Cajon Valley Middle School location, was excited to serve at Toys for Joy. Years prior, she and her husband joined an rGroup at Rock Church, and what happened next was something she never saw coming. She let her rGroup know that her mother was in need of a kidney donor, and one of the women in her rGroup stepped up to offer one of hers. Michelle’s mom received the kidney and her life was saved.
Later, Michelle was able to open up to her rGroup about her 30-year addiction to alcohol —the one thing she wanted to get off her back more than anything. She just never had anyone to trust.
Today, she is 2.5 years sober, thanks to her rGroup and God’s grace. And that is why she volunteers at Toys for Joy. “I’m here to be a part of all this love and provision. God provided for me. How can I not want to do the same for others?”
One thing is for certain, whether an attendee or a volunteer, all were blessed to be a part of the 22nd Annual Toys for Joy. All were filled with love, joy, and hope regardless of their circumstances this Christmas season. This event would not be possible without the support of Rock Church and its thousands of volunteers.
To read more about Toys for Joy at the Cajon Valley Middle School location, click here.
To read more about Toys for Joy at the Guajome Park Academy location, click here.