VALRICO — If brightening the holidays for a needy child isn't enough incentive to donate to the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign, some Brandon-area businesses are providing a couple of more reasons to give.
Residents who put donations in the Toys for Tots boxes at participating Tampa Bay NAPA Auto Parts stores will receive a free oil change. Participating local dealers include Brandon Tire and Auto Service center at 2514 E State Road 60 in Valrico; Olin Mott Tire service center, 528 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon; and Laver Auto Service, 14108 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dover.
The NAPA Business Development Group, a 7-month-old cooperative of NAPA auto dealers, is behind the free oil change offer. Customers receive a certificate for an oil change after they donate cash to Toys for Tots or a toy valued at $20.
"We were trying to think of ways to give back to our communities, and someone came up with the idea of participating in the Toys for Tots toy drive," said Tom Blanchard, co-owner of Brandon Tire and Auto, and chairman of the 16-member cooperative. "The Marines jumped at the chance and even gave us our boxes early."
The Marines placed 54 Toys for Tots boxes at NAPA Auto Parts stores throughout Tampa Bay. The toy drive ends Dec. 19.
Donors can redeem their oil change at their leisure, Blanchard said.
"It's a win-win-win for everybody," Blanchard said. "The donors get something in return for giving. The kids get toys. And we have the satisfaction of knowing we're doing something good for our community. People support us all year long. We wanted to find a way to give back."
Blanchard shared information about the campaign with Jeff Jones, a Brandon Tire customer. Jones, who owns Chick-fil-A on Brandon Boulevard in Valrico, liked the idea so much he decided to join the effort. Anyone with a receipt for a free oil change will receive a complimentary Chick-fil-A sandwich from Jones' restaurant.
Marine Staff Sgt. Sadi Workman praised the auto parts dealers for their support. "We've had businesses provide discounts or free entry to events, but I don't think I've ever seen them provide a free service like this before," she said. "It's very generous and, hopefully, it will bring in more toys."
So far, Workman has put out 1,000 Toys for Tots boxes at Tampa Bay businesses, including the NAPA Auto Parts stores. She has ordered an additional 300 boxes to place in other businesses that have requested them.
"This is going to be a very large event this year, despite the economy," she said. "We're collecting toys at two hockey games, a Bucs game and major holiday parties, where we traditionally collect 400 to 500 toys."
On Dec. 17-18, Toys "R" Us at Westfield Brandon mall will host a 48-hour toy drive where the Marines expect to collect two semitrailer truckloads of toys.
A "Stuff-the-Bus" toy drive, hosted by radio station 93.3 FM, will take place at Walmart on Dale Mabry Highway at Interstate 275 in Tampa Dec. 7-12.
For more information about the Toys for Tots drive, visit tampa-fl.toysfortots.org. For information on the NAPA co-op's toy drive, contact Blanchard at (813) 685-6344.
D'Ann White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.