Hundreds gather for Toys for Tots
Mothers, fathers and children gathered at the ...
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COLLIER COUNTY — The holidays arrive at a difficult time for Nancy Castillo. The 21-year-old mother and sole wage earner in her household supports her son, her mother, her brother and several nephews. Remembering her own childhood and more prosperous times, Castillo says she is sad that she can’t afford to provide the same holiday experience for her son and nephews.
“This year is horrible with the economy,” Castillo says. “We thought we weren’t going to be able to give any presents this year.”
Cue “Send in the Marines.”
Catering to a day-long steady line of 15-20 people, Marine Corps League of Naples Toys for Tots are currently holding a three-day sign up session for Collier County families in need of holiday gift donations for their children. Until 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3, Collier County residents can register at the former DeVoe Buick dealership on Airport-Pulling Road in East Naples for gift donations for all of their children ages 14 and under. Those who sign up must return on Saturday, Dec. 18 to pick up their gifts.
Castillo says that the generosity of area gift givers and the volunteers from the Marine Corps League of Naples will allow her family to exchange gifts this year.
Without this group of Marines, “it wouldn’t be much of a Christmas,” Castillo says.
Joe Johnston, toy coordinator for this year’s Toys for Tots, says his volunteers are serving greater numbers this year, signing up 1,142 families that represent 3,800 children for gifts over the first two days.
“The need is greater this year, which means we need more toys,” Johnston says.
He projects that 20,000 toys are needed to meet the demand for this holiday season, and says that as of Monday the Collier County chapter of Toys for Tots has received 4,000 donated toys.
“We’re 16,000 toys short with less than two weeks to go,” Johnston says.
Liliana Figueroa, of Naples and mother of 4-year-old Amy Figueroa, says that while the holidays are about spending time with family, she would like to able to give her daughter what she wants: a Barbie doll in a pink dress.
“The times are tough,” Figueroa says. “But we’re together.”
Ariana Olea-Eligio, of Naples, brought her two sons, Jamie, 9-months-old, and Roberto, 3, along to register for the holiday gift drive. Olea-Oligio says that Jamie was recently diagnosed with leukemia and is currently undergoing chemotherapy in Fort Myers.
“This Christmas is very difficult with the disease,” Olea-Eligio said, adding that she was hoping to get her children shoes and a toy car for Roberto.
Johnston says that given the greater numbers of people in need, he is hoping for a boost in donations this year. Toys needed include bicycles, toys suited for children under the age of 2-years-old and toys for girls between the ages of 10 and 14-years-old ‑ such as makeup kits, MP3 players and costume jewelry. Johnston also says that backpack donations are always welcome.
For anyone looking to sign up for holiday gifts for their children must visit the former DeVoe auto dealership on Airport-Pulling Road in East Naples between 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Friday, Dec. 3. Please bring a photo ID and birth certificate for each child in need of gifts.
For more information on donating toys and drop-off points, please contact Johnston of Toys for Tots at (239) 207-5198, or go online at toysfortots.org.