Initiative benefits children in the 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem program
In December, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office will host its sixth annual Holiday Toy Drive, which benefits the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program, the agency has announced.
Two new partner organizations will participate in the initiative, Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman has noted in a news release.
The toy drive was launched in 2017 when the agency moved into its new headquarters, which is located on Cattleridge Boulevard in Sarasota, the release explains. Over the past five years, with help from agency members, residents, local businesses and organizations, the Sheriff’s Office has donated more than 10,000 gifts and $31,000 in gift cards to children enrolled in the GAL program, the release points out. Because of the event’s growing success, Hoffman this year invited Teen Court of Sarasota and the All Star Children’s Foundation to take part in the initiative, as well, the release adds.
“This is our sixth year collecting toys for local kids and it is through strong community partnerships and connections with our citizens that the event keeps getting bigger,” Hoffman said in the release. “After last year’s success,” he continued, “we anticipate our largest toy collection to date, which is why we are partnering with two new organizations this year. Both Teen Court and All Star Children’s Foundation serve children and families right here in our community, their organizations share in our values, and most importantly, they support kids who deserve a memorable holiday,” he pointed out in the release.
More than 1,000 children throughout Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties who were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect are part of the GAL program, the release explains.
“Teens enrolled in Teen Court are supported by the organization’s mission to create a second chance for at-risk youth, helping them make healthy choices through meaningful consequences, peer mentorship, and civic engagement,” the release adds.
Finally, All Star Children’s Foundation exists to provide children in foster care a secure environment “where they feel valued, safe, and empowered,” the release notes.
Because children and teens from all three organizations range in age from newborns to 18, “with varying personal needs,” the Sheriff’s Office “focuses the initiative solely on toys and gift cards,” the release points out. Residents are asked not to donate clothing or stuffed animals and to ensure that all items are new and unwrapped.
The collection period will begin Thursday, Dec. 1, and continue through Wednesday, Dec. 14, the release adds. Residents can deliver gifts to the agency’s headquarters, which is located at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd. in Sarasota, every day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
This year’s holiday toy drive also coincides with the agency’s annual open house. That will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 2 to 6 p.m., the release notes. The first 500 attendees to deliver a new and unwrapped toy or gift card will receive a free Sheriff’s Office T-shirt, limited to one per person per gift, the release says.
Further, the Sheriff’s Office “thanks the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Public Safety Department for again generously donating a holiday tree that will serve as the collection site for the toy drive,” the release adds.
For more information, contact the agency’s Community Affairs Office at 941-861-4005.