Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shorter holiday shopping season, increasing need, hurting some holiday toy drives

HOLIDAY — Donations so far for boys ages 4 to 9: one medical kit, one Tonka helicopter, one Tonka police car, one Play-Doh set. For girls: one cake pop kit, one art kit, one manicure set, one block set.

"That won't last 10 minutes," said the Rev. Dan Campbell, director of Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco, as he strolled past bare shelves Wednesday. Volunteers have signed up about 20 percent more needy families than last year, yet donations are down by about 10 percent.

"We're desperate for toys," Campbell said, noting that the first of two distributions takes place Saturday.

The situation is better at the agency's headquarters in downtown Tampa and at charities in other parts of the Tampa Bay area. But the need is more dire in Pasco County.

"I think a lot of people who used to be donors now need help," said Judith Tilton, community services director for the United Way of Pasco. She said lower unemployment rates and a soaring stock market might mislead people to think everyone is better off. But many people are stuck in low-wage or part-time jobs. A shorter shopping season and warmer weather this year probably haven't helped either.

In Hillsborough, the outlook is a bit brighter.

"We're seeing things pick up a little bit this week, but last week we weren't where we wanted to be as far as toys go," said Gwen Harmon, spokeswoman for Hillsborough Metropolitan Ministries. She said the agency has reached out to civic groups and churches that have helped in the past.

"I think a lot of people think of us primarily as a place for food," she said. "But this time of year toy donations are just as critical, as there are 13,000 children we're trying to serve."

The angel trees for the Pasco County Foster/Adoptive Parent Association remain largely untouched, said Lynn Walton, a representative for the organization that assists foster families.

"This time last year the angels were mostly gone," she said.

The state does not give any extra money for holiday gifts.

The angel tags on the trees, which are placed at various businesses, list a child's clothing and shoe sizes as well as three wishes. Sponsors can fill whatever they are able to afford, Walton said.

A change in policy at the U.S. Postal Service hurt donations to Toys for Tots, operated by the Marine Corps Reserve. The group depends on letter carriers to pick up toys left at mailboxes. This year, the postal service refused to let carriers put fliers in mailboxes for free to remind residents of the Dec. 7 event.

"It's heartbreaking to tell you the truth," said Bob Loring, the coordinator for east Pasco. He said the agency has 50 large bags of toys, about half the number it usually collects by this time.

"We'll have to limit the amount of people we register," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, I can only sleep well if we take care of the people we've got registered."

Toys for Tots will hand out the toys on Dec. 21, along with socks and underwear provided by local Rotary clubs.

Pinellas Toys for Tots also was affected by the lack publicity, coordinator Ron Ashley said.

Still, he said, it's not too late to help. Volunteers will spend the rest of this week and next sorting toys for a Dec. 21 distribution.

Christian Isaly, Toys for Tots coordinator for west Pasco, said his area is down about 40 percent. Requests for help are up about 1,000 over last year.

Marion Kelley, chairman of Hernando County Toys For Tots program, said collection bins located throughout the county have been disappointingly empty. He worries that he won't have enough toys to distribute to the more than 2,000 kids on his organization's wish list.

"I guess people are taking care of themselves this year," Kelley said. "Things have picked up a little in the last few days, but I'm afraid we're going to run short, and that's something we've never done."

Staff writer Logan Neill contributed to this report.

>>fast facts

Want to help?

Visit metromin.org for information about volunteering or donating to Metropolitan Ministries.

Visit pascofapa.com for information about donating to the Pasco Foster/Adoptive Parents Association.

Visit toysfortots.org for information about volunteering or donating to Toys for Tots. Click on "donate a toy" and then enter your state and county in the drop box.

Shorter holiday shopping season, increasing need, hurting some holiday toy drives 12/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 9:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.