The Salvation Army is already reaching capacity for Christmas registration, and the need for toys is great this year.
In Collier County, it registered more than 5,000 children in three days. The money the Salvation Army raises from red kettles provides the organization year-round with funds to spend on everything from rapid rehousing programs to gifts for children during the holidays.
You can drop off a toy at one of the collection sites or donate money. Financial donations are especially helpful, as they help to fill the gaps for age groups that don’t receive as many toy donations, like older teenagers. The group says it is also lacking in donations for newborns and could use things like small toys, baby blankets and bottles.
There are 210 Toys for Tots donation boxes throughout Collier County, from Marco Island to Immokalee. You can find them in local business stores, country clubs, community centers and elsewhere. After volunteers go around and collect the toys, they lay them out in a warehouse like the inventory of a big toy shop where parents can walk around and choose toys to give their children for Christmas.
The Salvation Army says these toys can represent more than just a plaything for these children and their families.
“We know a toy on Christmas morning is not going to change your life in that moment,” said Capt. Ben Bridges of the Salvation Army of Naples and Collier County. “But we do believe that a child waking up on Christmas and having that toy does bring a little bit of joy and hope to them. And we believe firmly that those moments of hope and joy built up over time really can lead to significant change in the life of children and families, and so that’s why it’s our joy at Christmas to be able to provide these toys for these families; to be able to find that spark of joy and hope for those children. And so we really hope and we really believe that the community will step up, will bring those toys out to our toy shop.”
The Salvation Army closed its online portal where low-income families can go register their child for a toy after maxing out at 5,500 kids in three days, fearing it wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of any more than that number of children for Christmas. It says the need is coming from all over: from parents who are working two to three jobs, from those who have been unemployed for the last year or more. it says it has the capacity to serve more kids, but the community’s help is needed with toy donations.
“We met 5,500 in those three days,” Bridges said. “What that tells us is the need is perhaps greater than ever. It also tells us that there’s a lot more kids that potentially could use that help this Christmas, and so we’re really calling out to the Naples community, to the Southwest Florida community, to rally around our cause. To step up, to bring those toys, those toy boxes, to donate to us financially so that we can go out and purchase the toys that we need for our kids.”
Salvation Army staff say they hope to get enough toy donations to be able to reopen the portal and register even more children for gifts this Christmas. Visit the Salvation Army online if you’d like to donate online or become a volunteer.