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Christmas Toy Shop, Metropolitan Ministries still could use donations

With the holiday season in full swing, nonprofit organizations throughout Pinellas County are feeling the pinch.

High unemployment and a stifling economy have driven up requests for assistance from needy families.

The Salvation Army's bell ringers and the Toys for Tots collection boxes are quite visible, but there are other agencies out there that are in dire need of help.

Some are relative unknowns, while others, like the Christmas Toy Shop Project at 550 16th St. N in St. Petersburg, have been around for almost 90 years.

Last week, the Times ran a story with an accompanying picture that showed a Toys for Tots official in front of a mountain of toys.

The efforts of the thousands of people who donated toys have been great. But it's still not enough.

Just ask Ardith Rutland, a St. Petersburg resident who has been volunteering with the Christmas Toy Shop for 50 years.

"The Christmas Toy Shop is hurting for new toys and there are so many people out there who don't know about us," she said.

The nonprofit, which collects toys (new and used) year-round, is an all-volunteer outfit that doesn't garner as much attention as the U.S. Marines' Toys for Tots program, but the project has been around since 1921.

Rutland says it's the oldest all-volunteer organization in Pinellas County and perhaps the state.

The Christmas Toy Shop will celebrate its 90th year next November.

Despite the dropoff in donations, the organization still gets more than 3,000 referrals each year.

According to its website, in 2008, more than 1,000 families were served, including 3,464 children. Almost 1,000 bicycles were issued.

The Christmas Toy Shop is not alone in trying to help the needy.

Representatives at AAA, which has partnered with Metropolitan Ministries, say they are seeing smaller donations this year and need help, too.

So if you're looking to get in the Christmas spirit, it's not too late to make a donation.

• • •

The farewell jam for Theo Valentin originally scheduled for today at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum has been postponed.

No, she hasn't had a change of heart — she's still moving to Nashville — but organizers prefer to wait until after the holiday season to pay tribute to the gifted songstress.

Stay tuned.

Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8874.

.how to help

Where to give

• The Christmas Toy Shop, at 550 16th St. N in St. Petersburg, needs brand-new toys. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Visit christmastoyshop.org or call (727) 898-3962.

• Metropolitan Ministries is accepting food, clothing and toys. The organization has partnered with AAA and has several dropoff locations in South Pinellas. They include 7787 Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 577-5282; 800 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg, (727) 826-3600; 100 N Indian Rocks Road, Belleair Bluffs, (727) 584-7678; and 9200 Seminole Blvd., Seminole, (727) 398-3120.

• The People That Love Church and Mission, 817 Fifth Ave. N, will distribute toys at 11 a.m. Friday. For information on how to help, call (727) 421-3745.

Christmas Toy Shop, Metropolitan Ministries still could use donations 12/18/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 5:46pm]

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