Danny Bennett, the Senior Pastor of the Santa Cruz Hope Church, dresses casually for Sunday services, held weekly in the Del Mar Elementary School gymnasium, located at the corner of Merrill St. and 17th Ave.
Before services Bennett and staff host a free pancake breakfast and toy drive, which so far includes 500 colorful "Skate Church" skateboard decks bought with donations, that will be given away Dec. 23 at Del Mar Elementary.
There will be a free barbeque at 11 a.m. and at noon Pastor Bennett will begin to pass out the free skateboards to kids, first come, first served.
Bennett, who looks more like a twenty something surfer then a pastor, said (see video here). Inside the gymnasium church volunteers set up the donation barrels, while his daughter flipped pancakes on a portable griddle. In the background the church band practiced their Christian rock ballads.
The toys collected Sundy by the Santa Cruz Hope Church will go to 100 families in need, whose children attend Del Mar Elementary School. The unwrapped toys will be distributed to families on Thursday.
“We decided the best way to find out who we should help was to ask the office for a list,” Bennett said. The parents of the families on the list will be “invited to a private shopping session.”
The goal of this session is to provide parents with two unwrapped children's gifts per a child. “We want the parents to be able to take the toys home and wrap them for their kids, just like they would if they went to store and bought them.”
The Santa Cruz Hope Church grew out of gatherings at the Bennett's house.
“First it was barbecues, then one night during pizza, beer and Bible study we came up with the idea for the church. I started riding my bike around Pleasure Point and Live Oak and noticed the school gymnasium,” Bennett said.
He then called the Live Oak school district office, and on April 24 the Santa Cruz Hope Church was born.
Pastor Bennett points out that although the church is affiliated with the Four Squares organization that he considers it either multi-denominational or non-denominational. “It's a church for the rest of us.”
The congregation has grown to about 120 people a week. The church is considering adding a second service on Sundays if the congregation continues to grow.
The community is always a priority with the church.
“The church is happy to be able to rent the gymnasium for one day a week; the school district is able to use that money for things like the maintenance program,” Bennett said. The church members also set time aside to work on the grounds of the school, some days they will pick up litter in the landscaping. They also helped restore the school garden.
He reaches young parishioners with his Skate Church, a Wednesday meeting at Grind Out Hunger headquarters on 41st Ave. that includes pool, ping pong and skate ramps from 5-6:30 p.m. for kids up to 5th grade and 7-8:30 p.m. for teens. Details here.
People who still wish to donate to the Santa Cruz Hope Church’s toy drive before Thursday can call 831 288-3053 for information on how to donate.