Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Wells Fargo, TD turn away Toys for Tots donation boxes

They're a familiar sight this time of year: Toys for Tots collection boxes where folks can drop off new, unwrapped Christmas toys for needy children.

You won't see them at many banks anymore, though, as smaller banks have been gobbled up by megabanks. This year, two banks, TD and Wells Fargo, told Toys for Tots to remove the boxes from their west Pasco branches after volunteers put them there.

The order drew harsh words from John Durkin, the charity's west Pasco coordinator and a retired Marine who now works as a pilot for Delta Air Lines.

"These bankers have no problem taking our money and enriching themselves and have no problem telling us to 'Let them eat cake,' " he said, adding that the banks received billions in a government bailout and that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf took home $17.5 million in total compensation last year.

"I know Mr. Stumpf doesn't give a damn about people who have nothing," he said.

Wells Fargo reported in 2009 that it repaid the $25 billion it received in federal bailout money.

Corporate spokeswoman Kathy Harrison confirmed that the bank has a no-solicitation policy that has been in place for the past couple of years.

"We feel this policy is in the best interest of our customers who visit our stores (branches) in order to take care of their financial business," she said.

At year's end, she said, the bank will have invested at least $1.4 million in support of nonprofits and schools in the Greater Gulf Coast region.

"In addition, our team members made individual contributions of more than $530,000 during this year's annual Community Support and United Way campaign," she said.

Grants also were awarded to the Kids Wish Network Holiday for at-risk children in need of clothing, educational and health-related products; the Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation for hearing screening for 12,000 students in the Pasco County school system; and the Pasco Education Foundation.

Durkin said he used to put donation boxes in the banks when they belonged to Mercantile and Wachovia. But that changed this year after those companies became part of bigger banks.

"We don't dispute their right not to support us. We're not asking for a donation," Durkin said. "We're talking about just having some boxes in the lobby."

One Wells Fargo branch has allowed the collection boxes.

"We do it because we want to help," said Josh Mitchell, a personal banker at the San Antonio Wells Fargo branch, which is part of the East Pasco Toys for Tots drive that is headed by Bob Loring. "My manager is very community minded."

Loring said he hasn't had trouble finding distribution sites.

"If they don't want to help us, we consider it their loss," he said. Loring said his drive drew 4,100 donations last year, and he hopes to collect 4,500 to 5,000 this time around.

Durkin, who sent critical emails to Toys for Tots officials and copied them to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, said TD responded and offered to meet with him about the situation.

TD spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo confirmed that a meeting has been set for Friday.

"We'll see how we can work together," she said.

A list of dropoff sites appears on the Toys for Tots website, but hasn't been updated recently. It lists one site as SunTrust in Zephyrhills, but the bank hasn't accepted toy donations for about seven years, SunTrust spokeswoman Kathy James said.

"That may have been true when we were independently owned," she said. But the bank set the no-box policy for consistency's sake.

"Calls would be coming out of the floodgates" if it were allowed, she said.

James said the bank supports charities by providing donations and volunteers.

"They're a very worthy cause," she said of Toys for Tots.

Durkin said last year's west Pasco drive brought in 10,000 toys.

This year, with the county's unemployment rate still in the double digits, he hopes to double or triple that.

But he said donations are down so far.

"It's pretty gruesome," he said.

>>

Annual letter carrier toy drive

Toys for Tots draws a substantial share of its toys from the annual letter carrier drive, which is Saturday. Donors may leave a new, unwrapped toy beside the mailbox and postal workers will bring it to Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots is a nonprofit program founded in 1947 by the Marine Corps Reserve. Supporters have included Toys "R" Us, the National Football League, the U.S. Postal Service, and local Rotary clubs and civic groups.

Wells Fargo, TD turn away Toys for Tots donation boxes 11/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 8:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: Free speech, Schools of Hope, student voices and more

    Blogs

    FREE SPEECH: The University of Florida reluctantly hosts white nationalist activist Richard Spencer for a rally officials are encouraging students to ignore. Campus president Kent Fuchs, who tried to prevent the activity from taking place, Troopers prepare for Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County ahead of the event.

  2. How old is too old to go trick-or-treating on Halloween?

    Human Interest

    Brandi Eatman guesses the boy was at least 15 years old.

     Costume accessories at House of Make Believe at 1055 N Hercules Ave. in Clearwater. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  3. Report: West Pasco channel dredges could cost up to $13.5 million

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The cost of dredging a dozen coastal canals serving seven west Pasco communities could reach nearly $13.5 million, according to a consultant's report.

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
 A consultant recommends that Pasco County consider a dozen canal dredging projects in west Pasco's coastal communities at a cost that could reach nearly $13.5 million. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times 2011]
  4. Records show Hernando Beach fire chiefs defrauded taxpayers of thousands

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The three former chiefs of the defunct Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, arrested in September, are collectively accused of defrauding the taxpayers of Hernando Beach, Aripeka and Forest Glenn of tens of thousands of dollars.

    David Freda, a former Hernando Beach fire chief, has been charged with organized fraud. He recently was fired as Brooksville’s fire chief.
  5. Money dries up, bringing questions and new leadership to Tampa nonprofit

    News

    TAMPA — A new leader has been installed at one of East Tampa's leading nonprofit agencies following reports that money is going out faster than it's coming out.

    Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan founder James Hammond, left, attended an awards ceremony in February with Jeanette Bradley, right, who recently wasd removed as chief executive of the charity Hammond founded, the Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan. The group was honored for innovation at the WEDU Be More Unstoppable awards. [AMY SCHERZER | Times]