PIFLA set to host 3rd annual toy distribution, youth holiday shop
The volunteers at Pay It Forward Lehigh Acres are working hard to make sure that local youth and adults enjoy a happier holiday season this year.
Held in partnership with MEOW Mothers Empowering Other Women Inc., the group will host the 3rd annual PIFLA toy distribution this week, with a children’s holiday shop planned the following week. Area businesses have set up donation boxes, and the local community has been donating toys and gifts.
“This was a tough year for the area with the hurricane and forest fires,” Tracy LaVallee, the PIFLA group’s organizer, said. “A lot of families are having a hard time just making it themselves.”
The group has seen a decline in the amount of toys being donated compared to past years.
Currently, the toy drive still needs age-appropriate items for children and teenagers.
“We are asking those who can to bring toys, arts and crafts kits, games, baby toys and gifts for teenagers, including items such as hygiene gift sets,” she said.
The toy distribution usually attracts about 400 families, but organizers anticipate a lot more this year due to the fact that Lehigh Community Services focused its attentions more on the elderly in need.
“It’s great what (Lehigh) Community Services is doing for the seniors who are here without family or friends to spend the holidays with,” LaVallee said.
People looking to donate a toy can still do so at the following locations:
– Access Real Estate, at 322 Gunnery Road S.
– Pool Keepers Plus, at 25 Homestead Road N.
– Eurex Shutters, at 5601 8th St. W.
– Pelican’s Snowballs, at 601 Williams Ave.
– Fantasy World Academy, at 5513 8th St. W.
– Joe’s Cafe, at 43 Homestead Road N.
– LCSO East District substation, at 1301 Homestead Road N.
“We are taking toy donations right up until the day of the event,” she said. “Last year, we were delivering gifts right up until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve. We also deliver to families who are physical unable to make it to the distribution site.”
The toy distribution is open to Lehigh residents only and children under the age of 18.
There is no need for registration or proof of income; parents or guardians attending will need an ID, proof of residency like a utility bill, and a birth certificate or guardianship paper for each child.
The toys will be handed out at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office East District substation, at 1301 Homestead Road N., on:
– Dec. 14 from 5 to 8 p.m.
– Dec. 15 from noon to 3 p.m.
– Dec. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The program does not serve people currently getting assistance from another organization; attendees found to be on another agency’s assistance list will be asked to leave.
It is only open to parents and guardians; participants are asked to make child care arrangements.
PIFLA is also holding a separate gift drive for its children’s holiday shop.
“We wanted to provide a way for kids, who maybe can’t afford it, a way to give something special to their loved ones,” LaVallee said. “The kids can shop free and are able to pick up to five items – more if donations continue to pour in.”
The youth-centered event is not Lehigh specific and is open to any child.
“We will have little elves to help the kids pick out their gifts and wrap them,” she said.
According to LaVallee, gently-used items for men are still needed.
“So far we got a lot of toys, costume jewelry, games, household items and a rack of brand new clothing was recently donated,” she said.
The holiday shop will take place Dec. 21 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Dec. 22 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Lehigh Acres Church of the Nazarene, at 210 Lee Blvd. To donate, stop by the church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Donors can also contact LaVallee via the group’s Facebook page to arrange for a pick up.
For more information about the toy distribution and children’s holiday shop, visit www.facebook.com/groups/pifla.