ST. PETERSBURG, FL — For more than 100 years, the Christmas Toy Shop Project, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit organization, has ensured that Pinellas County families and children in need get the Christmas of their dreams.
“We want to make sure that the children get served and the families that can’t afford Christmas get Christmas,” volunteer Ellen Streich told Patch.
Now, as they wrap up toy distribution for this year’s holiday — about a thousand children getting two bags of toys each — the organization is already prepping for Christmas 2024.
The toy shop is open year-round, and though the nonprofit’s volunteers will take a break during the final two weeks of the month, they’ll be back at it in January.
“When you’re putting together 2,000 bags of toys, it takes a while,” Streich said. “We’re constantly working. And everyone at the toy shop is a volunteer. Nobody gets paid a penny for anything — the office manager, the facilities manager, the board of directors, all of us.”
In preparation for next year’s needs, Streich will be joining the Suncoast Storytellers Saturday, 5 to 7 p.m., during the monthly art walk storytelling event at The Factory for a toy drive for the Christmas Toy Shop Project.
She’ll portray the elf assisting Suncoast Storytellers’ founder Ross Tarr as Santa. The pair will take photos with art walk attendees and collect toy donations for the shop.
The Christmas Toy Shop Project serves infants to children up to 12 years old and accepts both new and gently used toys.
It has a variety of departments — a bike shop, a Barbie department, a dollhouse department, regular dolls, games, books and puzzles, used girls, used boys, preschool, a woodshop, and more.
“We all have a special area that we focus on, but we all help each other out,” Streich.
Her area of expertise is “bonus gifts.”
That’s “something big, something a little nicer, that special gift,” she said. “I work on those. It might be a play kitchen, a trampoline, a boy’s workbench, an American girl doll. Just something that’s bigger.”
Every family gets their two bags of gifts per child and one bonus gift.
The shop is always looking for donations, both toys and monetary donations, as well as volunteers. Throughout the year, it’s open Tuesday and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and anybody is welcome to come by to help.
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