It was 8:45 am, the weather was cool, and “Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Prospero Ano Y Felicidad” played on a loudspeaker as hundreds of volunteers anxiously waited to serve the community while dressed in Christmas sweaters, Santa hats, and protective masks. After hours of setting up tents and organizing gifts, groceries, Bibles, and Rock Church resources, the first cars were lined up and ready to attend the 24th Annual Toys for Joy.
With all the safety precautions in full effect, including required masks, social distancing, and drive-by attendees, 2020 was still not able to take away the hope that Toys for Joy has brought San Diegans for years!
2020 was still not able to take away the hope that Toys for Joy has brought San Diegans for years!
Carloads of families were gifted with free toys, groceries, and resources at four locations, including Palomar Community College, San Diego Mesa College, Cajon Valley Middle School, and Bonita Valley Community Church. 1,434 volunteers served, 18,000 toys were distributed to children, and over 111,000 pounds of groceries were provided to families in need. One of the most inspiring parts of the event was that the people in 2,381 cars were prayed for.
With a year filled with uncertainty, fear, and social distancing, 2020 has been a struggle for everyone. The staff and volunteers of Toys for Joy were grateful to still be able to continue the tradition of bringing joy to children and families, particularly in a season that has been extremely difficult on hundreds of thousands of Americans. Though this year’s event looked entirely different than the past 23 years, toys, necessities, and the hope of Christ were still shared.
As cars lined up, cheers from volunteers could be heard as the families drove in to receive food for their families, presents for their children, and the love of Jesus. Volunteers danced, waved, and clapped as each family drove by while others loaded their cars with goodies.
When expressing what serving in a tough year like this felt like, Toys for Joy volunteer Verlanda, said, “It instills a sense of hope and love. It’s important to love others as God loves us. We should be the first Bible they read.” Verlanda, a Family Distribution volunteer, was in charge of ensuring that safety precautions were in place and the correct items were provided to each car. When asked what her favorite part of this heartwarming event was, she replied, “Seeing the blessing on the kids’ faces and providing for the families.”
“It instills a sense of hope and love. It’s important to love others as God loves us. We should be the first Bible they read.”
Pastor Miles McPherson has been the Senior Pastor of Rock Church for over twenty years, and Toys for Joy is the biggest annual outreach event, serving thousands of families with hundreds of volunteers at four different locations across San Diego. With such a huge annual event, Special Needs volunteer, Diane (name changed to protect confidentiality), had this to say, “I’m so glad [that] even with COVID, the Church was still able to recreate the event and share the love of Jesus with families.”
Saturday, December 12th, was a special day that brought light to our community and will be remembered by attendees for years to come. Charlise (name changed to protect confidentiality), from Normal Heights, said, “It’s so nice that there are so many nice people that are willing to do an event like this.” Charlise, a mother, emotionally reminisced on her mom attending similar events that would provide her with Christmas presents when she was a child. As she tearfully expressed her gratitude, her 10-year-old daughter excitedly shared her feelings on attending Toys for Joy this year, “It makes me very happy!”
One father and son, John and Ryan (names changed to protect confidentiality), pulled up in their car along with hundreds of other vehicles. When the volunteer ambassador assigned to their car asked the father if she could pray for them, John's eyes teared up as he told her that they had been homeless for some time, but God came through and provided a home for them just the night before! They now had a roof over their heads, something this father and son didn’t have just days ago. Plus, they now also had a box of food and a toy for Ryan. After praying, the volunteer realized John was actually crying tears of joy!
In the midst of a global pandemic, what a blessing it was to serve the families of San Diego at Toys for Joy. This event would not be possible without the thousands of volunteers and generous donations from individuals and corporate sponsors. Thank you to all who gave of your time and/or financial contributions.