(Photo: The Rock Church)
Rock Church in San Diego, Calif., drew more than 12,000 people for its annual Toys for Joy event over the weekend, even as hundreds of volunteers helped give away over 200,000 articles of clothing, 13,000 bags of groceries and 10,000 toys to those in need.
It was the largest turnout for the community service-oriented megachurch since the event was founded 17 years ago, reports 10News.
Held at Lincoln High School on Saturday, the event was aimed at "bringing the hope and love of Jesus to those in need," according to the church's website.
An estimated 17 percent of the people in the city live below the poverty level.
The idea behind Toys for Joy is simple, but not easy, the church says. "Collect over 10,000 toys, assemble more than 13,000 bags of groceries, gather close to 200,000 articles of clothing, and harness the energy of 2,600 dedicated volunteers the day of the event."
The event means "the difference between having a more joyful Christmas or none at all."
A beneficiary, Cherrelle Spring, told the ABC affiliate that her inability to buy gifts reminded her of the time when she was younger and would force herself not to expect anything for the Christmas season. "I went through the same thing," she was quoted as saying. "My mom didn't have nothing."
A volunteer, Michael McCowan, recalled how he used to come to the event waiting for Christmas presents. "You don't know how to cry but when you see mom crying, you're saying, 'Yes, this is mine, this is Christmas,'" he was quoted as saying.
Rock Church Pastor Miles McPherson started the event four years before he founded the church.
"My favorite part about this event is seeing the whole community come together; from the churches to the schools, from the businesses to the church congregation," McPherson, author of Do Something! Make Your Life Count, says on the church's website. "It's a win, win, win for everybody."
McPherson earlier said, "We're not here to [simply] have a church service, but to be the hope of the world."
McPherson founded the event in partnership with Victory Outreach Church in San Diego at a time when Rock Church did not exist. It was McPherson's Miles Ahead Ministry that spearheaded the event, which was inspired by organizers witnessing that people would sit in church to hear the Gospel and then afterwards go out to buy toys or a Christmas tree.
The ministry has since grown from distributing toys and Christmas trees only, into the massive giveaway it is now that includes food and clothing.
On Sundays, over 16,000 people attend the Rock in-person or online, according to the church's website.