For some, Dec. 25 will mark the end of a year that hasn't necessarily been merry and bright.
By Wednesday, the Collier County Sheriff's Office hopes to have collected toys for 150 of them — children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected and are represented by Guardian ad Litem volunteers.
Gifts donated to the Sheriff's Office "Celebrate With a Star" program this year will go to children assigned to the 20th Judicial Circuit's Guardian ad Litem program in connection with the Voices for Kids of Southwest Florida program.
Guardian ad Litem volunteers act as advocates for the children in court and the child welfare system. The Voices for Kids program helps make sure each advocate has financial and other resources for their child's health, educational and social needs.
"Most of the children are going to be in foster homes, or with a relative or a person the court has approved," said Donna Kordek, Collier County's volunteer recruiter for Voices for Kids. "Their lives are in such turmoil already that it's really nice to have someone step up to the plate and say, 'You're special.' It means a lot to the kids."
The Sheriff's Office typically rotates charities but decided this year to once again help Voices for Kids, the 2011 beneficiary of the gifts.
"We actually had such great participation last year that this will be our second year working with them," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kristi Lester said.
Those looking to help out can email email@example.com to be assigned a child's age and holiday wish, or they can stop by the Human Resources lobby of the Sheriff's Office Headquarters, 3319 U.S. 41 E. Building J, to pick up an ornament with a child's holiday wish.
Gifts must be dropped off by Wednesday at any Sheriff's Office substation or in the Human Resources lobby. Gifts, which can be wrapped or unwrapped, should have their star attached so it's clear which child the present is for.
Any questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-252-0604.
Although the children range in age from 1 to 17, Lester said many of the older children have requested presents as simple as a $20 to $30 gift card.
"We've had a really great response, as we usually do, but we're still in need of a few more," she said. "These are kids who are in need of immediate assistance, and we just want to help them have a great holiday."