Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando Toys for Tots shares the community's generosity

The community was generous, and Toys for Tots of Hernando County held its distribution Saturday at Central High in Brooksville.

Photo courtesy of Terry Edgell Jr.

The community was generous, and Toys for Tots of Hernando County held its distribution Saturday at Central High in Brooksville.

SPRING HILL

Related News/Archive

It was the grown-ups whose faces radiated awe and holiday cheer Saturday morning as "elves" ushered them around the annual Toys for Tots distribution.

Many of those who came — representing some 2,200 needy Hernando County children — paused with big eyes and open mouths as they surveyed the scene in the cafeteria at Central High School.

The vast outpouring of gifts by local residents will help ensure that each youngster will have something to smile about after Santa's clandestine visit to wherever they live.

The donations included bright and musical toys, books, perplexing and challenging games, whizzing and flashing electronics, babylike and porcelain-faced dolls, silver-chrome bicycles and electric scooters that will putter up to 10 mph.

Other folks donated cash and gift cards to the sponsoring Marine Corps League Spring Hill Detachment 708, enabling the Marines and their helpers to buy at least one fulfillment on each child's wish list.

For some of the adults who were gathering gifts for recipients, the stroll through Santa's showroom was bittersweet — chagrin that they had to resort to charity for their children's happiness, but gratitude that good cheer was at hand.

Angela Ferrer of Spring Hill, a mother of seven with three still at home, was overwhelmed as an elf-hatted Navy ROTC volunteer from Central High helped her wheel out a 20-inch Huffy rocket bicycle for her son, Henry Fernandez.

"He thinks he's going to get socks," Ferrer said of her 12-year-old son.

Ferrer's big plastic sack also held Barbie dolls and puzzles for 8-year-old Maylin Fernandez.

The youngsters' father is able to work only part-time after an accident, Ferrer explained, and she suffers from an ailing back.

Another Navy ROTC cadet carried a big box containing a toddler-size basketball hoop destined for Savion Sims, 3. His mother, Sharonda Sims of Spring Hill, laughed as she related that he wouldn't be getting the No. 1 item on his wish list — a roller coaster.

"But he's crazy about basketball," she said.

Sims also registered to receive gifts for daughters Aryal, 5, and Aryana, 6 months.

"I kind of know what they like," she said as she chose Barbie dolls for the elder girl and small toys — "light-up stuff and toys that make noise" — for the younger.

The mother said she was relying on Toys for Tots "because I don't make enough" as a housekeeping staffer at Spring Hill Regional Hospital. Their father "is a stay-at-home dad, the best stay-at-home dad," Sims said, adding that he operates a recording studio in their modest duplex home.

Marine Corps League Detachment commander Marion Kelley said donations this year were down by 45 percent from 2011.

The poor response to the annual U.S. Postal Service collection day by letter carriers was the major reason, he said. USPS officials maintained the budget-strapped agency couldn't afford this year to put postage-free fliers in mailboxes advertising the day when carriers would pick up donations left at mailboxes.

To make up the anticipated shortfall, Kelley said the Marines carried personal pitches to local communities and businesses. What he labeled "big help" came from Glen Lakes; Timber Pines; the Wellington at Seven Hills; Monster Transmission, which sponsored a bike run; and Texas Roadhouse, which sponsored a golf tournament with the cooperation of Hernando Oaks.

Kelley also heaped praise on the Walmart Distribution Center in Ridge Manor and local Walmart stores.

"I have nothing but kudos for them," he said. "They gave so many nice toys."

And the Walmart Foundation provided a $1,000 grant to the effort.

Also, Kelley said, the Marines collected more tricycles than requested, but not enough bicycles. Walmart made a trade to meet children's wishes.

The local Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots bike chairman, Don Ward, noted that bicycle recipients are perhaps the most exuberant over their gifts.

"They say, 'That's for me?' They go out the door with big smiles on their faces, and they always say 'Merry Christmas,' " Ward said. "After months and months of work, that makes it all worthwhile."

Toys for Tots recipient families are checked for income eligibility and cross-referenced with other holiday gift-gifting organizations to ensure the beneficiaries aren't double-dipping, Kelley noted.

This year, for each child through age 12, Toys for Tots provided three toys, two stuffed animals, one book, one game and three stocking stuffers. Bicycles and other pricey gifts counted as more than one toy.

Despite what co-chairwoman Ellen Ward described as a "mind-boggling" display of gifts Saturday at Central, Kelley worried it might not be enough.

At midmorning, he said, "If it means I have to go out and buy toys at 2 p.m., we'll go out and get something for every kid. That's what Marines do."

At the end of the day, Ward reported, "We came right down to the wire. We had a few families that didn't get age-appropriate things. Ten- to 12-year-olds are hard."

On Monday morning, Kelley and buying chairwoman Lorraine Jensen went on a shopping trip for those older kids.

"Everybody got taken care of," Ward said.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

Hernando Toys for Tots shares the community's generosity 12/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  2. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  3. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  4. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  5. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]