While there have been small slivers of hope that the economy may be awakening, many local charities find themselves lagging behind in holiday donations. Charitable giving is down, leaving many families wondering if their children will experience Santa's generosity come Christmas morning. But it is still not too late to lend a hand to Tampa Bay's overly strained and underfunded charitable community.
Charitable groups large and small across Tampa Bay have experienced a troubling drop in giving. Taking it to the Streets Ministry in Pinellas Park has seen its toy donations decline by 45 percent, as has Tampa's sprawling Metropolitan Ministries. Carrollwood restaurateur Alex Cook, who has been collecting and donating between 900 and 1,000 bicycles annually for the past 13 years, has seen his inventory drop to just 543 bikes this year. And Blanton Elementary School in St. Petersburg, which sponsored the Elf project in honor of the late Carolyn Cawthon, a teacher who began the effort 14 years ago to make sure each student received a gift, came up short of meeting its goal until superintendent John Stewart pitched in to generate donations.
Times are hard. Family budgets are tight. This holiday season, there is still time to give something to make a child's Christmas a little bit brighter.