By LOIS KINDLE
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on many South Shore families this year, and many are struggling simply to make ends meet. As a result, their ability to provide toys for their children this Christmas is looking bleak.
Business owners can help. To ensure area children have something under their trees Christmas morning, the South Shore Toys for Tots Campaign is once again collecting new, unwrapped toys and monetary donations from the public. As it has for the past 16 years, the campaign needs local businesses to step up and accept collection boxes.
This year’s toy drive will be different.
For everyone’s health and safety, South Shore Toys for Tots sponsors Don and Walter Pearson will not be hosting their usual wrap-up party with The Alley at Southshore. Instead, Marines from the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion in Tampa will be on hand to accept boxes filled with toys as they are dropped off in drive-through fashion in The Alley parking lot, 10221 Big Bend Road Riverview.
“We hope to have some fun, throw in a special take-home goodie and maybe feature a few honored guests,” said campaign coordinator Ann Hathaway, Pearson Capital accounts manager. “Normally at this time we would be personally meeting with our networking groups and handing out the boxes, but it’s really hard to ZOOM a box to them!”
Businesses willing to place a collection box for their locations have two options. Hathaway is currently trying to get as many of the boxes out as possible, either by someone picking them up at The Alley or by requesting they be delivered to a business’ location. To arrange delivery, contact her by calling 813-645-6392 or via email at email@example.com.
Last year, about 100 businesses helped out.
For the past 13 years, Rachel’s Family Salon in Apollo Beach has been among them, and this year will be no exception.
“There is a lot of need this year, actually more than ever,” said owner Rachel Mushow. “As businesses, we can all do our part for our community by taking a box. I already have three and have begun collecting (toy donations).
“I’m just one person with some very generous clients,” she continued. “If I can do it, anyone can!”
“All kids deserve to have a merry Christmas,” she said. “Business owners can help by hosting a box and encouraging toy donations at their places of business.”
A list of box locations will be published in all of The Observer News publications within the next few weeks.
Families seeking help this year should contact their child’s school or visit https://toysampa-fl.toysfortots.org/ and click Request a Toy.