BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Local agencies, organizations and businesses are already helping to spread holiday cheer to those in need.
There is an increased need for help this holiday season as people continue to recover from Hurricane Irma that hit Florida back in September.
“People are still affected by the hurricane. A lot of people lost homes, jobs, cars, and more and are now playing catch-up,” said Dyrell Johnson, executive director and founder of Community Healing Project. “It breaks my heart to see so much suffering in ‘The World’s Most Famous Beach.’”
Henry Butts Sr., coordinator of the Volusia County Toys for Tots, concurred.
“There is a higher demand of toys in wake of Hurricane Irma in Volusia County, especially over on the western side of the county,’’ he told the Daytona Times.
Johnson’s organization will be helping those in need through a “Gift Grab’’ event 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Lion’s Den Hooka Café, 2281 S. Ridgewood, Ave., South Daytona.
Along with the toys and blankets, the event will include free food and storytelling.
“We must do what we can to put a smile on a child’s face as well as their parents so that they can get away from the stress of working, paying bills and providing a Christmas for their children. We just want to unite, relax and have a little fun,” said Johnson.
Those wishing to donate money, food, clothing and toys should contact the Community Healing Project at 486-682-0552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
100 or more bikes
Here are some of the other giveaways scheduled in Volusia County.
The Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) will hold its bike giveaway on Dec. 15from 4 to 7 p.m. The headquarters is located at 127 Valor Road.
“We want to give away 100 bikes or maybe more. A lot of kids want a bike and we were able to go get them. We have some that are old and some that are new, but all are in good condition. We are able to do this with donations from businesses and the community,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.
The event is just one of the department’s community outreach programs.
“We do all that we can. We feed 16 families for Thanksgiving with boxes of food. It’s all about the community. We feel that the community is our family and we must take care of family,” Capri related.
‘Shop with a Cop’
The DBPD also is bringing back its “Shop with a Cop’’ initiative where officers take under privileged kids shopping for Christmas gifts at Wal-Mart. That will take place on Dec. 17.
Youngsters are chosen by school resource officers and through other outreach programs and entities.
“There is no sign up. It’s just chosen that way to make sure we find those in need,” Capri said.
Bryon center party
The Rose Marie Byron Children’s Center at 625 South St. will hold its annual Christmas party, which is open to the community on Dec. 16 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
The party will include free food, gifts, entertainment and games. The Halifax River Yacht Club is providing toys for the giveaway.
Anyone wishing to donate food or gifts should contact Janet Bryant at 386-316-3910 or Justine Robotham at 386-265-3482.
Toys still needed
It’s too late for parents to register their kids for the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots and Salvation Army Angel Tree programs, which both distribute gifts to children in need.
However, both organizations are still accepting donations.
The Volusia County Toys for Tots will assist more than 1,500 families this year.
“It’s always a good thing to make sure that a child has a good Christmas. Just getting them a toy and letting them know that someone cares about them is an honorable thing to do,” Butts said.
Toys for Tots will distribute items on Dec. 9 at the Chisholm Community Center, 520 S. Clara Ave., DeLand, and Dec. 16 at Mainland High School, 1255. W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach.
“Distributing at Mainland has always been a challenge. We’ve had long lines with people outside as early as 4 a.m. We now have it where they are pre-verified and they can sit in cars and wait to be notified when their toys are ready,” Butts related.
For more on Volusia County Toys for Tots or to help donate, visit www.volusiacountytoysfortots.org.
Angel Tree donations
To donate toys to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, residents are asked to pick cards from trees at participating locations and fill out a child’s wish by purchasing a toy and dropping it off at either the Volusia Mall or the Salvation Army at 1555 LGPA Blvd., Daytona Beach.
The Angel Tree program toys will be distributed Dec. 22 at the LPGA location. The Salvation Army can be contacted at 386-236-2020 about the program.