Santa Claus is heading to South Shore early this year, and he’s bringing Mrs. Claus with him. The Jolly Old Soul will be at The Alley at SouthShore Dec. 10 for the annual South Shore Toys for Tots wrap-up party.
“It’s an opportunity to show the spirit of Christmas,” said John O’Connor, of Duette, Santa’s spitting image. “The way I look is the way God made me. When I’m (playing) Santa, I’m doing God’s work.”
Collection boxes for this year’s Toys for Tots drive are already placed at scores of area businesses for residents to drop off new, unwrapped toys until Dec. 9. Every donation helps Santa make Christmas merry for children in need.
Last year, the South Shore community donated 81 boxes of toys, almost $10,000 and more than 250 bicycles.
“It’s a big job to try and outdo each previous year’s collection, but somehow the people of South Shore and the surrounding areas always manage to step up and help us make it happen,” said Ann Hathaway, the South Shore coordinator for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots drive in Hillsborough County. “Our goal is to make sure they can do that for lots of children.”
The South Shore effort was started by Apollo Beach businessman Don Pearson of Pearson Capital Inc. 12 years ago with Hathaway’s help. Every year since, the community has responded more generously, she said.
“The South Shore drive is the largest one-day collection event in Hillsborough County,” said retired USMC Maj. Ed Zaleski, asstistant coordinator for the Marines’ countywide drive.
The wrap-up party will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. at The Alley, 10221 Big Bend Road, Riverview. The Alley Cat Restaurant has been reserved for the event.
Everyone’s invited to attend the party, which includes free food and Santa’s visit from 3 to 6 p.m. Admission is one new, unwrapped toy.
Marines from the 4th Assault Amphibious Battalion in Tampa will attend the party to mingle with the public, load toys and deliver them to a Tampa warehouse for sorting. Parents from low-income families who have signed up for the program will be assigned a pick-up location in South Shore. For example, the Beth-El Mission in Wimauma is one of the distribution points. For information, visit toysfortots.org.
Some area businesses are hosting special events or providing discounts to increase donations. Latitudes, 131 Harbor Village Lane, Apollo Beach, has scheduled Toys for Tots Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 8; H&R Block, 151 Harbor Village Lane, Apollo Beach, is hosting a shred-a-thon Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Century 21 Beggins Enterprises, 6542 U.S. 41 N., Apollo Beach, is having a morning brunch Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. And Quality Life Massage Therapy, 10015 Park Place Ave., Riverview, is offering a $15 discount on any service.
Each business is requesting a donation of new, unwrapped toys, cash or bikes.
The following is a partial list of drop-off locations for Toys for Tots donations:
SouthShore Chamber, 137 Harbor Village Lane
Bank of the Ozarks, 6542 U.S. 41 N.
Rachel’s Family Salon, 5473 U.S. 41 N.
BB&T Bank, 6530 U.S. 41 N.
Century 21 Beggins Enterprises, 6542 U.S. 41 N.
Tampa Bay Martial Arts, 6530 U.S. 41 N.
Kids R Kids Southshore, 13151 Kings Lake Drive
Oops A Daisy Flowers & Gifts, 7130 Big Bend Road
The Alley, 10221 Big Bend Road
Riverview Mortgage, 10035 Water Works Lane
Quality Life Massage, 10015 Park Place Ave.
Great Clips 11653 Boyette Road
Stanley Steemer, 3705 Crescent Park Drive
Firehouse Cultural Center, 101 First Ave. N.E.
Harriet’s Flowers, 226 College Ave. W.
People’s Choice Realty/TRW, 302 U.S. 41 N.
Beanie’s Family Sports Grill, 2002 U.S. 41 S.
Sun City Center
Boggs Jewelers, 4852 State Road 674
Century 21 Beggins Realty, 701 Del Webb Blvd. W.
Jacobs & Thatcher Dentistry, 1601 Rickenbacker Dr., Suite #7
For additional information or other locations near you, call 813-645-6392.