Cindy Peterson, Contributor
Dec. 26 2020
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LEESBURG — It was one of the biggest years for Toys for Tots of Lake and Sumter County.
The organization distributed around 82,000 gifts to children for the holidays, helping around 28,000 children in 6,000 families.
In comparison, they distributed around 32,000 toys to 2,900 families in 2019.
“Our contributions have definitely exceeded previous years,” director Ed Lloyd said. “We honestly thought were would lose contributions this year because of COVID, but people have been very generous this year, despite it being a rough year.”
Organizing for the event began three months ago with volunteers prepping around 500 donation boxes, finding businesses to become drop off places and consistently collecting them as gifts were donated.
At their warehouse in Fruitland Park, which is generously donated to them each year by Mr. Phillips from Phillips Auto Division, a group of volunteers worked in sorting the gifts by gender and age, and then began filling orders once the applications started flooding in.
“We had to have a few less volunteers than usual because of COVID,” Lloyd said. “People don’t realize how much actually goes into making everything happen. We partnered with the library in Clermont for our South Lake families and delivered gifts to to be distributed thorough the Salvation Army in Leesburg and other organizations to help maximize the distribution process.”
According to Lloyd, he has never had to worry about having enough gifts to fulfill the applications because Lake and Sumter County are very generous. Many of the living communities in Leesburg and The Villages often donate generously, both with gifts and cash donations, and some even make handmade gifts like dolls and infant cradles.
The response of the recipients were very appreciative.
“I’ve been blessed a hundred times over,” Lloyd said. “It’s not a secret our unemployment here isn’t as bad as other parts of the state, but we have a lot of what I call ‘working poor.’ These folks are working but it’s not enough to effectively cover extra expenses. Then we have folks that have just been beaten down and have nothing and we need to take care of them. It’s the most rewarding part of the three months.”