Samaritan House in urgent need of toys, bikes

December 20, 2010 7:19:47 PM PST
It's a harsh sign of the times -- donations at toy drives around the Bay Area are down this year, while the need is greater than ever. It seems even Santa is having trouble drumming up support.

At Lefty O'Douls in San Francisco's Union Square, the famous Santa who was recently fired from Macy's still needs help collecting toys for kids. Toys for infants, tweens, and teens are especially needed.

The sorting is underway, the gift bags are being filled, the baby dolls are ready to go, and the bicycles have been polished. With just two days to go until Richmond's big toy giveaway, it might look like the elves are ready, but one sign says it all. The Richmond/El Cerrito firefighters posted a sign saying, "We need toys, can you help?"

"We had to go to 1,500 this year just because the givings to us were down," says Rod Woods, a Richmond firefighter.

They were able to give away 3,000 toys last year and that number has melted down to about 1,500 this year. Those families will turn out Wednesday to pick up what for many will be their only presents this Christmas. Gifts collected by East Bay police and firefighters. Hundreds more say they need the help, but there may not be enough gifts to go around.

"This year more people are out of work and the people that had jobs last year are in line this year. They were the ones helping us help others and now they're in need of help," says Woods.

The need seems to be universal the collection buckets were only half full at the CHP office in Oakland.

And Good Samaritans have been stopping by the Samaritan House in San Mateo, but as the empty shelves show, not as many as last year.

"Donations are down 40 percent, but we have almost 100 percent more children signed up to receive toys so that's put us in the worst bind we've been in for many years," says Nancy Carothers, from the Samaritan House.

Donations are also down at Lefty O'Doul's, even with Santa as a draw. The calls for toys are still coming into Richmond for the Christmas giveaway.

It took weeks to collect all these gifts, but it only took six hours before 1,500 families had signed up to collect them and others were turned away.

In Richmond, El Cerrito, and Kensington, all fire stations are accepting toy donations. On Christmas Eve, people can drive up curbside to Lefty O'Doul's and there will be people out there to help collect gifts and bring them inside. Also all Luxor cabs will drive up to your house and drive it back to Lefty O'Doul's.

They are asking anyone who can help to drop off new unwrapped toys or gift cards to the facility. They also need new or gently-used bicycles as they are one of the most requested items from kids every year.

The Samaritan House will be open every day through Thursday, December 23.


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