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Toys needed more than ever this year

Herb Donica calls it the double whammy.

The local lawyer and civilian coordinator for the Toys for Tots Tampa Bay program anticipated the twin hit more than a month ago, but it still packs a wallop.

What's the double whammy? Simply put, it's people who once willingly and gleefully gave to the program now extending a bare hand and asking for toys because they've fallen on hard times.

Basic economics tells you Toys for Tots gets hit twice: once on the supply side and again on the demand side.

"Last year, we registered 10,400 children," Donica explained Friday. "As of this morning, we were 16 short of 15,000. That's 40-45 percent more. It is crunch time for us.

"We may have to cut back on the number of toys we put in a bag. That makes me lose sleep thinking some kid will get less, but we may have to stretch our supply."

Toys for Tots embarks upon one of its most important efforts today with the help of local letter-carriers union branches in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Through rain, sleet and snow, they always deliver. Today the letter carriers deliver and pick up.

Residents in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties can leave a new, unwrapped toy at the mailbox and the letter carriers will take them back to their respective substations. They arrive to a warm welcome of volunteers from various groups, including the Rough Riders.

The volunteers unload the postal trucks and place the toys in delivery trucks provided by Electric Supply, Inc., Cardinal Health and Bay Area DKI.

Those trucks take the goodies to the Toys for Tots warehouse, where more volunteers separate and store the toys.

Powered by more than 120 volunteers, it's a system that works with militaristic precision and delivers 60 percent of the toys for the entire season. Of course, what else would you expect from an organization operated by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve?

"The branch decided to get on board and help out 11 years ago," said Jim Good, president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 599. "It's sort of in line with the national food drive we do each May.

"It's working really well and it pretty much runs itself. It's easy for everyone involved."

Easy for everyone but the families hoping to receive toys. The economic challenges create more families wanting nothing more than to bring a little joy into the lives of their children, and I have to think this will be a tough Christmas if kids accustomed to receiving toys get little or nothing.

Of course, the challenges of more needy families will be balanced by others who dig a little deeper. And even though this is a national program, every donation stays right here in Tampa Bay.

"Those who can give are going to give more. I know that," Donica said. "The biggest worry I have are the people who have always given to us are now on the other side."

Toys for Tots' Letter Carrier Day will be important, but it won't be the only opportunity. Various collection efforts are occurring throughout the holiday season, including Lightning games tonight and Monday, and the Bucs game on Dec. 13.

Go to toysfortotstampabay.org to learn more.

And remember, it has to be a new, unwrapped toy.

But if you want, you can wrap it in love.

That's all I'm saying.

Toys needed more than ever this year 12/04/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2009 11:15pm]
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