An army of volunteers distributed thousands of toys, clothing items and pounds of food to needy families in San Diego County this past Saturday.
The 13th annual Toys for Joy, founded by Pastor Miles McPherson of The Rock Church, brought together about 2,000 volunteers to hand out more than 10,000 toys, over 50,000 articles of clothing, and 9,000 bags of food – which totaled about 60,000 pounds – to people in the community.
Local children received soccer balls, dolls, and games, among other toys as early Christmas gifts.
About 16.8 percent of San Diego County's children live in poverty, according to KidsData.org.
In addition to toys and food, the one-day event also offered free health services, such as eye exams and dental care, job placement assistance, and free haircuts. All the giveaways took place in a carnival-like environment with live entertainment and an area that included Astro jumps, snow zones, carnival games, prizes, face painting and clowns.
Though the annual community outreach event started with The Rock Church, it has expanded to include as partners the charity organization Convoy of Hope as well as about two dozen area churches, community agencies, and businesses.
Toys for Joy is part of The Rock Church's "DO Something Campaign," in which people are encouraged to do something for their communities by volunteering. Since the beginning of the year, the San Diego megachurch has offered 542,055 service hours to San Diego County. Its goal is to complete 600,000 hours by the end of 2009.
"[W]e are one church in one neighborhood, having this kind of impact," said Pastor McPherson last month about his church's volunteer campaign. "We as one congregation are doing more community service than some huge national organizations.
"Just think how that could be multiplied across the nation," McPherson said.
Translated to money, The Rock Church has saved the San Diego community $9.6 million worth in services.
McPherson's new book, Do Something: Make Your Life Count, challenges churches across the country to mobilize people to serve their community and share Christ's love beyond the walls of the church.
At The Rock church, at least 74 of its more than 100 ministries are volunteer-led community ministries. The congregation is predominantly young and urban and has an average of 12,000 people a week for Sunday services.
The Rock is San Diego's largest church and the 19th largest church in the nation, according to Outreach magazine's 2009 "100 Largest and Fastest-Growing Churches in America" survey.