MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) —Toys for Tots in Manatee County serves around 20,000 local children each year, delivering around 80,000 donated toys to families in need ahead of Christmas morning.
This year, the local chapter is trying to clear an unexpected hurdle. Assistant Coordinator Robert Fields tells 8 On Your Side right as their campaign was kicking off, they got word that the warehouse space they were counting on to receive inventory and donated toys was not going to be available to them this year.
“It was either leased or sold, but you can’t blame the property owner for that, they’ve got to make money,” said Fields.
The nonprofit organization doesn’t have the means to pay for a warehouse space. Historically, the spaces they’ve utilized from year to year have been donated to them.
“We can’t pay for the warehouse, but what we can do for them is provide a letter that allows them to deduct the full market value of that rental price for the time we are occupying it,” said Fields. “Which okay, that is not as much as rent, but it is money.”
Efforts to contact and find a new space to get them through December haven’t been too successful so far. Fields says he hasn’t gotten many calls back which has been discouraging, but the volunteers, many of which are retired U.S. Marines, are determined to make it happen so local children will have the Christmas experience they deserve.
“I was one of those kids. I grew up in Kansas and we were dirt poor. What I got for Christmas usually was a pair of socks and the Kiwanis Club one year came by and gave me a toy and that is why I do this,” said Fields.
The chapter in Manatee County needs about 3,000 square feet of space. So far, someone has donated about 1,400 square feet of warehouse space.
Fields says other chapters across the nation are facing similar struggles, including Sarasota County.
Anyone interested in helping provide a space to meet the Manatee County chapter’s needs can contact Mike McClain at 941-812-2987.