Toys urgently needed for Christmas Eve drive


New, unwrapped toys are badly needed so that the restaurant can meet its goal of collecting 15,000 toys in its annual Christmas Eve toy drive, Lefty O'Doul's spokesman Lee Houskeeper said.

The drive began at 6 a.m. As of 11:15 a.m., only 1,250 toys had been collected, he said.

"We're 2,000 behind what we were at this time last year," Houskeeper said. "I'm worried we're not going to make it."

Donations can be dropped off curbside at Lefty's, located at 333 Geary St., just off of Powell Street near Union Square, until 2 a.m. on Christmas morning.

Those who are unable to make the trip to Lefty's can call Luxor Cab at (415) 282-4141 and the cab company will come pick up the donation.

The last-minute toy drive is part of the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program. Tom O'Connor, president of the San Francisco firefighters' union, said the aim is to provide toys to 44,000 children in need this year.

He said demand for toys is up 15 percent this year, and that the Christmas Eve toy drive usually provides 5 to 10 percent of overall toy donations.

"It really helps us get over the hump with the last-minute donations," O'Connor said.

On Christmas day, firefighters travel around the city dropping off toys at homes, playgrounds and to children they pass by on the street.

Families who have applied to receive toys can also pick them up at the program's headquarters on Jerrold Avenue.

Toys for all ages are needed, he said, including basketballs, baseballs, footballs and dolls. Houskeeper said there is also a need for higher-end gifts such as bicycles and electronics.

If there is a toy store or other venue that has a whole truckload of toys to donate, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency van is available to pick them up, SFMTA spokeswoman Lulu Feliciano said.

As the crew at Lefty's awaits more donations, they are continuing to spread the holiday spirit, with singing and musical performances scheduled throughout the day, including by Tim Hockenberry from America's Got Talent and local marching bands and children's choirs.

This morning, city officials including Mayor Ed Lee, Police Chief Greg Suhr and Fire chief Joanne Hayes-White packed the restaurant for a breakfast to kick off the toy drive. The San Francisco Giants' World Series trophy even made an appearance.

San Francisco police officers and firefighters are invited to come eat and drink for free today, Houskeeper said.

The last-minute toy drive has been held annually for the past 12 years.

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