Toy drive helps less fortunate kids and animals this holiday season

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Some donations for the Tots-And-Tails Toy Drive. Photo via WINK News.

One Fort Myers woman has temporarily turned her home into Santa’s Southwest Florida workshop, preparing gifts for hundreds of children in the community.

But children aren’t the only ones that she is helping this holiday season.

Tots & Tails Christmas Toy Drive organizer Megan Steinke says her certified therapy dogs, Tala and Abigail, are the “tail” that inspired her idea for helping out local animal shelters.

“Last year Immokalee had some severe flooding, a lot of the residents in Immokalee were forced to go to a shelter.  Between our therapy work we decided to make a stop at one of the shelters and visit with all the people there,” Steinke said. “We thought why not host a stuffed animal toy drive to bring smiles to these children who have been displaced for the time being.”

That effort grew into a large-scale effort for both kids and pets.

“[The dogs] relied on the generosity of others to make sure they had the basic needs before they were rescued,” Steinke said. “Whether it be food, leashes, beds for animals in the shelters.”

Photo: WINK News

Steinke says they were able to provide 400 ‘tots’ with toys and gifts last year. This year, they are preparing presents for 500 kids.

“The most rewarding thing is to be able to bring the joy of Christmas to these children and these animals,” Steinke said.

Helping by providing kids in need with food, presents, toys, candy and clothes.

A child gives Santa a hug. Photo via WINK News.
A recipient gives Santa a hug. Photo via WINK News.

“For everything they had going through, that the community had gone through, it was beautiful,” Louisa Ganez said, who lives in Immokalee. “All kids deserve to have a happy Christmas.”

This year, Steinke is bagging toys with help from the Heights Foundation and the Pine Manor United Way House for this year’s Tots & Tails Christmas Toy Drive.

“Each kid we’re confident will get anywhere from three to six toys,” Steinke said. “It’s really rewarding to see the smiles on the kids faces when we hand them their toy bag.”

Tears and smiles, she said, are made possible by a partnership with the American Military Veterans Foundation and above all, your generosity.

They are collecting items at more than 30 locations in the Southwest Florida area. You can visit their Facebook page HERE to find one closest to you, or to find more ways to get involved.

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