Second annual Christmas tree lighting brings joy and love to Double Rock – activities continue through the year

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by Jean T. Gaines

Together we stand and divided we shall fall! That’s the wisdom that brought together two men, Ron Whittenberg of Brotherhood Keepers and Dwayne Gaines of Just Stop the Killing, and the Double Rock community is the better for it, during the holidays and all year ‘round.

Before the tree could be lit, it had to be trimmed, and the children did a beautiful job. – Photo: Price Dean
Community organizers Dwayne Gaines and Ron Whittenberg prepare the tree to be trimmed. – Photo: Price Dean

Together, for the second year, they organized the Annual Double Rock Christmas Tree Lighting on Nov. 26. It was a hit that folks are still talking about.

Ron and Dwayne came together one day when Dwayne was handing out fliers. “I ran into another brother I’ve known for years with the same vision as mine – to help our community and stop the killings,” says Dwayne.

“At that time, when we first came together, Double Rock was suffering from violence and killings, and we needed to reach our kids who are our future. We asked ourselves and went before God, asking what can we do to help and make a difference in a community we both love and live in?

“Then we came up with JPLH&S, which stands for Joy, Peace, Love, Happiness and Serenity. In fact, it turned into our desire and our description of what we want Double Rock to look like and feel like.”

Praise dancer Elisha Rochell of River of Life calls on heaven to bless the people of Double Rock. – Photo: Price Dean
Dwayne Gaines and his son, Dwayne Gaines Jr. and his granddaughter stand proudly with the banner for their organization, Just Stop the Killing. – Photo: Price Dean

With the vision clear, they began organizing an event that they knew everyone in Double Rock would want to attend, an annual Christmas tree lighting. This year, Dwayne says, “We had praise dancers, music, picture taking and an abundance of food.

“Moreover, at the start, we had a community prayer. Praying together led us to leave our doubts and fears behind and opened us up to joy and love, where it did not feel like only a community but a family.

“We would like to give a hardy thank you to the churches that came out in full force: Bayview Church of Christ, Good Samaritan, True Hope, River of Life and Providence. Thanks too to our sponsors, who are the true glue holding our vision together: Level Construction, Mr. Jon Kenney, Double Rock Grocery Deli & Liquor, Mrs. Joyce Knighten, CJS Collectibles, Mr. Carlton McGarry and Sally of the San Francisco Fire Fighter Toy Drive, Neighborhood Services, Derick Brown and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen.”

After the tree lighting, some of the Double Rock community stayed for this group photo in front of the beautiful tree at the Double Rock main gate. – Photo: Price Dean
Coach Ron Whittenberg, father of four, poses with his only daughter, Ron’denavia, 6, at a family wedding.

To keep up the work that is so badly needed moving forward, Just Stop the Killing, needs a 15-passenger van, new or used, office space, computers and printers, office supplies, volunteers and uniforms for the soldiers who are walking the streets. All donations are tax deductible. Please contact me directly via email at juststopthekilling@gmail.com.

Ongoing programs throughout the year

Brother Ron Whittenberg is the founder, CEO and director of Brotherhood Keeper Youth Stop the Violence community based programs that stay busy all year. The objectives have traditionally been to find effective strategies to help guide and educate the youth and young adults about the world we live in, helping them to improve their lives and guiding them through the challenges they face day to day.

The Junior Giants sport their new uniform shirts during practice at Gilman Park. They asked Coach Ron Whittenberg, and he delivered.

“We are men of action making a difference. We have seen many young people lose their lives, so our passion is to keep them thinking positively and teach them how become productive and prepare them for a successful life.

“Together we can achieve the extraordinary and make a difference in the community. Some of our activities include Junior Giants and a Cub Scout troop, helping the youth to strike out violence, feeding the homeless, and helping oppressed and depressed people.

“We have a heart and passion to help the people, and I’m proud of our over 75 percent success rate with the youth.” Ron is the coach of the Junior Giants and leader of the Cub Scout troop. He has been doing this work for over 20 years.

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