Fourth annual toy drive to be hosted by Sheriff’s Office starting Tuesday, Dec. 1

With many holiday events cancelled because of pandemic, staff getting Santa Claus involved during special event on Dec. 12

Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

This year, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office will host its fourth annual holiday toy drive, benefitting the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program, Sheriff Tom Knight has announced.

More than 1,500 children from throughout Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect have been appointed Guardian ad Litems, a news release explains. Because the children range in age from newborns to 18, with varying needs, the holiday initiative is focused solely on toys and gift cards and does not include clothing or stuffed animals, the release points out.

“All donations must be new and unwrapped,” the release says. The initiative will begin Tuesday, Dec. 1, and continue until Tuesday, Dec. 15.

With several holiday events having been cancelled this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the release points out, the Sheriff’s Office “is making this year’s toy drive extra special by getting Santa Claus involved.” On Saturday, Dec. 12, “Santa will make an appearance at the agency’s headquarters to collect donations,” the release says. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, just outside the main entrance.

Persons are invited to drive by and drop off their donations with Santa, the release adds. In return, each set of donors will receive a Sheriff’s Office “swag bag,” the release notes.

Donors are encouraged to wear masks, the release continues. They will be allowed to “take a quick selfie with Santa while their vehicle is in ‘park,’” the release says. “There will be no on-site parking and donors are asked to remain in their vehicles,” the release points out.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office headquarters is located at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd. in Sarasota.

For those unable to attend the donation drop-off event, toys may be delivered any day of the week, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., the release says.

The toy drive initiative was launched in 2017, the release continues. To date, it has led to the collection of more than 3,500 gifts, including nearly $9,000 in gift cards. This year the Sheriff’s Office hopes to surpass totals from previous years and collect even more gifts for children in need, the release emphasizes.

Thanks to a partnership with the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Public Safety Department, the release adds, “hospital personnel are once again generously donating a holiday tree,” which will serve as the collection site for the toy drive. The tree will be delivered to the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 11 a.m., the release notes.

“This event has really become the highlight of our year, every year,” said Sheriff Knight in the release. “I continue to be amazed by the outpouring of support from our employees and community who love to bring joy to deserving children during the holiday season.”

For more information, contact the agency’s Community Affairs Office at 941-861-4005.