Toys for Tots in Lee County helping SWFL families amid financial difficulties

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard Writer: Paul Dolan

Hurricane Ian’s recovery combined with record-high inflation has made it increasingly difficult for parents to buy gifts for their children.

You can find Oscar Rauda and Robert Raybuck, from Toys for Tots in Lee County, at a storage facility in Cape Coral.

They’re collecting toys and getting ready to hand them out to families and kids struggling after the storm hit Southwest Florida.

Rauda explained to WINK News that even though the organization is hurting a bit this year, they’re doing everything they can to help kids have a bit more of a normal Christmas.

“I started a little bit late. There are some businesses that are no longer there. That used to help us out,” Rauda said. “So the need is out there. But we’re getting back on track.”

Hundreds of families have applied for Toys for Tots already this year. However, by the time the application process is over, the organization expects around 30,000 applications to get filled out.

And over at the Salvation Army of Collier County’s toy shop, parents can apply to go shopping for their kids’ gifts.

Captain Ben Bridges said once families are approved, they’ll go to the Salvation Army of Collier County’s toy shop.

Next, they’ll get a cart and go around picking the gifts their kids will love to see under the tree.

“So our families will leave with shopping carts full of toys that they can then give to their kids on Christmas morning. Giving a little bit of joy under the tree that they otherwise would not have,” Bridges said.

Bridges also explained it’s a hard year for families and the organization, just like Toys for Tots in Lee County.

Nevertheless, Bridges remains hopeful that thanks to the community, thousands of children won’t feel that hardship on Christmas day.

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