The joy was absolutely electric this past week at the 26th Annual Toys for Joy Christmas event hosted by Rock Church.
5,550 people across five separate event locations lined up to receive free toys, groceries, haircuts, bicycles, and entertainment – and entertainment may be an understatement. There were bounce houses, balloon animals, people dressed up as superheroes, and a live kids choir, all there to bless the families of San Diego during this Christmas season.
In total, 11,148 toys were given out, along with 105,000 pounds of groceries, 5,389 meals, 20,115 items of clothing, 250 haircuts, and 355 manicures! Each number represents a San Diego family who was provided for and encouraged in the midst of what can be a trying season for many.
As the name indicates, this event is all about true joy, and joyful it was! At the Point Loma location, first-time Toys for Joy attendee, Karla Fox, was thrilled to play in the Family Fun Zone with her young daughter. As a single mom, Karla noted just how special it was to be able to provide her daughter with toys and special memories as a result of Rock Church’s generosity.
At Rock Church El Cajon, Toys for Joy was an incredible opportunity to serve the many people who have come to East County as refugees. For Zainab Hamadi, who fled Iraq in 2006, Toys for Joy provided a way for her to give gifts and clothing to her six children at Christmas. This event has impacted Zainab’s family so much that her daughter, Fatima, now serves as a volunteer! Referring to her daughter, Zainab commented, “It is a very good feeling for her when the kids take the toys, and they are very happy. I’m very proud of her.”
Earlier in the week, Rock Church City Heights invited families in the community to attend a special Toys for Joy dinner event. Before receiving free groceries and toys for their children, families were invited to play in the Family Fun Zone and eat a free, catered meal sponsored by local restaurant, Claim Jumper. Having grown up in the neighborhood, Associate Campus Pastor Noell Mitchell understood that many children in the community have never been able to eat out at a restaurant before. The vision behind an event centered around a formal dinner was to provide a delicious, restaurant-like experience and long-lasting memories.
As one City Heights attendee, Uza Baraka, expressed, “Toys for Joy can address my needs, especially to put my family together… for lots of years, we didn’t get together, we didn’t have dinner together, we didn’t have fun together. Toys for Joy impacted my life this year.”
At the San Marcos location, community partners Junkyard Dance Crew and We 805 South provided outstanding entertainment in the form of hip hop dance performances. The Chula Vista location catered their event to bless families in the area, including many people who have been displaced from their homes due to financial hardship.
While countless attendees were blessed at Toys for Joy, the volunteers were also overwhelmed with positive emotions about their experiences. This year, 2,062 volunteers dedicated 11,252 hours to make Toys for Joy happen. Spread out across the five community event locations, these volunteers were united in spirit to help infuse San Diego with joy!
For the volunteers who served on Saturday morning, the day began extra early. Set-up volunteers opted to arrive as early as 5am, and those in charge of volunteer check-in were onsite even earlier. One volunteer, Laura Navarro, woke up at three in the morning so she could take her dogs on a quick walk before driving all the way from L.A. to San Diego to serve.
As she helped transform Rock Church Point Loma lobby into a North Pole-themed toy room, Laura expressed why she was so excited to give back at Toys for Joy. “There are so many families who are suffering because of the state of the economy right now, and they are in need of support and true hope. It’s great to give out free toys, but I love that the toys also come with a message of comfort and hope during this Christmas season.”
"It’s great to give out free toys, but I love that the toys also come with a message of comfort and hope during this Christmas season."
For Gary and Betty Faith, Toys for Joy was an opportunity to serve together as a couple on their 11th wedding anniversary! They have been serving together since they began dating, and they were thrilled to spend their “day date” handing out gifts to children. In their minds, there was nowhere more important that they could have been.
Also in attendance at Toys for Joy were San Diego Mayor, Todd Gloria, Council Member Monica Montgomery Steppe, and San Diego Chief of Police, David Nisleit. Mayor Todd Gloria stated, "I just want to express my appreication to the volunteers here at Rock Church for creating a wonderful holiday for our kids. You know, Christmas is a beautiful time of year, and what you are doing is absolutely beautiful!"
“I just want to express my appreciation to the volunteers here at Rock Church for creating a wonderful holiday for our kids. You know, Christmas is a beautiful time of year, and what you are doing is absolutely beautiful!”
It is one thing to make a broad impact on the city, and Toys for Joy certainly did that, but it is another thing to make a deep impact. At the end of the day, Toys for Joy is centered around blessing each family - and each child - as individuals. It is about welcoming people with warmth and hospitality. It is about telling them that they matter, that their story matters, and that there are people in San Diego who care enough about them to donate thousands of dollars and countless volunteer hours simply to put a smile on their faces.
Rock Church is committed to serving the community year after year at the Toys for Joy event, and they are already looking forward to next year! To learn more about Toys for Joy, visit www.toys-for-joy.org.
Continuing in the same spirit of Christmas joy, Rock Church will be hosting services on Christmas weekend at all of their campuses. To learn more, visit sdrock.com/christmas.