ENGLEWOOD — Toys for Tots is looking for donations to help children of all ages this holiday season, but kids ages 8-16, and children in area hospitals and trauma shelters across Charlotte and Sarasota counties, are of particular concern now that Englewood Helping Hand is not doing its toy drive this year.
“It’s (in) everyone’s best interest to help foster our youth and our community,” said Daniel Esposito, coordinator of Toys for Tots for Sarasota County. “The whole idea about Toys for Tots is about building confidence in the community.”
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Maj. William L. Hendricks founded the organization in 1947 as the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Hendricks passed away in 1992, but the reserve still runs the program from its main office in Triangle, Va.
According to Marcia Ziegler, membership director of the South County Family YMCA in Venice, donations are slower than usual this year, even though the boxes have been in place for only a few days, much later than usual.
“What I am told from the gentleman who runs the Toys for Tots program is that it’s the teenagers ages 14 and 15 they’re short in already, and also girls (in the) 8 to 10 age group,” Ziegler said.
Although the supply of toys has decreased, the demand has risen.
“What I’ve noticed last year, we serviced 52 to 53 families. This year, we probably have around 70 (on) the list,” she said.
Ziegler said she speculates the reason why the number of families jumped is because Englewood Helping Hand is not doing it.
“The main reason why we’re not doing a toy drive this year is because our administrator resigned,” said Michelle Jacob, food pantry administrator of Englewood Helping Hand. “There’s also six other agencies taking care of Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we’re curtailing redundancies. We’re still administering food, but we’re no longer taking applications.”
According to Esposito, the misconception many people have about Toys for Tots is the age demographic of the group.
“Most people are not aware of the fact that we got out to age 14 and, in some cases, age 16,” Esposito said. “So people usually go shopping for the (age) 3-7 group. Once you walk through the warehouse, we have girls on one side and boys on the other; you can really see the numbers drop down to the floor when it comes to girls age 8. The piles of toys get smaller and smaller until we get to (age) 10, when it’s almost nonexistent.”
Sgt. Maj. Richard Frattarelli, coordinator and organizer with Charlotte County Toys for Tots, said donations are down overall this year, and there are more than 1,700 families on the lists.
“We hope it picks up real soon. All the families who applied for toys are going to get some,” he said.
Sarasota County has 165 businesses with a box or two at each location. Toys for Tots also receives donations at special events.
The Sarasota chapter usually ends up with a surplus of toys, mostly stuffed animals, after the holiday drive. Most either end up in next year’s supply or distributed to children’s hospitals and shelters for traumatized children across Charlotte and Sarasota counties. Donated used toys go to The Salvation Army or Goodwill.
For more information about how to donate in Sarasota County, call 941-525-2287; in Charlotte County, call 941-626-6215.
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