JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of Jacksonville children will wake up on Christmas morning with brand new toys thanks to your generosity.
If you’ll recall, News4Jax held a toy drive at Channel 4 earlier this month to collect donations for Toys for Tots and our viewers generously donated nearly 1,400 toys. Those toys and thousands of others were given to local families Friday just in time for the holidays.
That means more than 16,000 children will be getting presents this year, a blessing for parents struggling to make ends meet.
“At the moment, I’m not working and I’m a single mom, so making ends meet has been pretty tough the last few months,” Vanessa Gomez, a mother of three, said. “If it wasn’t for the community, who knows what Christmas would look like? I’m blessed to have this.”
Sgt. Justin Cabrera, the Toys for Tots coordinator in Jacksonville, said 7,200 children received toys last year, and that number more than doubled this year. He said more than 40,000 toys were donated as part of the organization’s collection this year.
“It’s been great,” Cabrera said. “The communities come together in hard times and I’m very proud of Duval County.”
For some families, this year marks the first time they’ve needed help.
“Toys for Tots is definitely going to help our family make the children light up on Christmas Day,” said Shania Lemon, a mother of four. “It’s such a blessing to have such great people in the Jacksonville community coming and helping with everything going on. It just reminds you Jacksonville is definitely strong.”
While the registration period has ended, families who registered for the program will be able to continue picking up their holiday gifts for the next two days. Home Depot on Atlantic Boulevard near Girvin Road dropped off $1,000 worth of toys through its “Operation Sunrise.”
“It’s pretty exciting to know that on Christmas morning somebody is going to get a present to open up and not go without, so we feel really great to help somebody through the holidays,” said Andre Joyner, store manager for Home Depot.
Briggs Equipment also dropped off a $3,500 check along with some toys.
Toys for Tots is still accepting donations. If you would like to drop off toys, you can do so at the old HH Gregg location, 10320 Shops Lane, 32258 (off Philips Hwy across from The Avenues).