Make us your home page

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 for information about volunteering or donating to Metropolitan Ministries.

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

Visit 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

  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    The Rays are looking to keep rolling when they make a quick turnaround after Friday's win over the Twins and are back on the field for a matinee today, 2:10 first pitch Tampa Bay time.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off a good but not great start against the Angels, though buoyed …

  2. Global computer outage grounds British flights


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports Saturday as a global IT failure caused severe disruption for travelers on a busy holiday weekend.

    British Airways planes are parked at Heathrow Airport in January. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
  3. Road rage incident leaves uninvolved man, 52, with critical injuries in Pinellas Park


    PINELLAS PARK — A 52-year-old man was critically injured after an apparent road rage incident that shut down the area of a U.S. 19 overpass for nearly six hours on Friday, police said.

    Pinellas Park police say a man has critical injuries after a truck involved in a road rage incident slammed into him after he cut off another vehicle. (Pinellas Park Police Department)
  4. Britain lowers terror threat level to 'severe' as more arrested


    MANCHESTER, England — Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. More arrests are expected.

    An army bomb disposal team works with members of the police in the Moss Side area of Manchester, England, on Saturday. British police say they are evacuating residents around a house being searched in connection with the Manchester concert bombing. Police are searching a number of properties and have 11 suspects in custody in connection with Monday's explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, which killed more than 20 people and injured dozens. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)
  5. Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen dies


    Sergio Bendixen, the first Hispanic to run a U.S. presidential campaign who later pioneered public-opinion polling among Latinos and other immigrant populations, died late Friday in Miami. He was 68.

    Sergio Bendixen.