Toys for Tots of East Pasco brings joy to needy children

Foundation helps thousands each year

By Kyle LoJacono

Staff Writer

PASCO COUNTY — Bob Loring is known as the head elf for Toys for Tots of East Pasco.

“It’ll ruin my Christmas if we can’t help these needy children,” Loring said. “One year we ran out of toys and had to turn some parents away in Dade City. That crushed me to watch those parents not have presents for their kids. I don’t want that to ever happen again.”

Loring has been the EPTFT coordinator since 1999. He moved to Zephyrhills from Miami in 1996 after retiring from Florida International University.

The Toys for Tots Foundation was founded by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1948 to collect unwrapped presents and distribute them to needy children during the holidays.

EPTFT was founded in the early 1990s. Last year, it distributed presents to 3,300 children and wants to do the same this year.

While EPTFT focuses on Pasco County children, Loring said families in north Hillsborough County zip codes that cross into Pasco are not turned away.

All toys will be distributed on Dec. 19 at five locations, one of which is at Wesley Chapel Elementary. Anna Fulk is the captain for the Wesley Chapel distribution.

“After parents register with us they get to go shopping for their children at our tables,” Fulk said. “The tables are set up in a circle I call ‘the circle of life.’ Each table has toys for different ages of children.”

Fulk said the distribution will be from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Parents will be able to select one large and two small presents, plus all the stocking-stuffers and stuffed animals they want.

“Barns & Noble has given us a cases of books donated by customers for parents to pick from, and Bob Williams with Support Our Troops donated about 1,000 toothbrushes to give out too,” Fulk said. “We tell the parents that it’s just like shopping, but there is no cashier at the end. That always surprises them because unfortunately many people in need are used to having things just shoved at them without getting to pick. We let them have their choice of the toys.”

EPTFT collects toys all year, but sets up extra drop-off locations in east and central Pasco in November to increase donations during the holidays. J.Joseph Salon in Land O’ Lakes was one of those locations this year.

“We had a good year in a recession and wanted to find a way to give back to the community,” said Roy Naccour, J.Joseph owner. “Lots of people have been bringing in presents and asking us about the program. The community reaction has been great, and I want to thank them for it. It’s important that every kid has something special at this time of year.”

Loring said EPTFT will be collecting toys until Dec. 18 for this year.

“When I started with Toys for Tots I was told that half the kids in Pasco are on some sort of assistance, like free or reduced lunches at school,” Loring said. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but it must be higher after the economy went bad. My phones are ringing off the hook with parents wanting to register for toys.”

To qualify for help from EPTFT a child must be receiving some financial assistance. To help the most underprivileged children, Loring asks the public schools to select the students that are most in need.

“What is great to me is we are as grass roots as it gets,” Loring said. “Each community in Pasco takes ownership of the needy kids in their area and the great thing is any community can get in on the program. When I started we had just one distribution location. Now we have five.”

For more information on EPTFT, e-mail Loring at *protected email*, call him at (352) 588-4230 or visit www.toysfortotspasco.org.

Distribution Locations for Toys for Tots of East Pasco

  • Alice B. Hall Community Center, 38116 Fifth Ave., Zephyrhills
  • Wesley Chapel Elementary, 30243 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel
  • Pasco-Hernando Community College, 36727 Blanton Road, Dade City
  • New Life Assembly, 38012 Trilby Road, Trilby
  • Land O’ Lakes Community Center, 5401 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Land O’ Lakes

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