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Share the Spirit
Holiday wish list growing longer
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Caring for Pinellas County’s less fortunate, its seniors and those with special needs is a constant challenge. But, year after year, Pinellas County comes together to make the holidays bright for everyone, old and young, sick and healthy, and especially the poor.

Tampa Bay Newspapers has updated its annual Share the Spirit listing of ways people are pitching in to help others. To add to the list, send an email to webmaster@tbnweekly.com.

Collection for Operation Santa, senior center

The Gulfport Merchant’s Association is collecting items for Operation Santa during the Holiday Hoopla Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bring unwrapped toys and gift cards for children and families and non-perishable food, toiletries and pet supplies for the Gulfport Senior Center Foundation. Collection Boxes will be located at the Casino Stage at the intersection of Beach and Shore boulevards during the event. Non-event drop off locations include Gulfport Police Department and The Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit gulfportma.com or call 727-322-5217.

Elves for Elders Program 2012
Largo - St. Petersburg - Oldsmar

The Elves for Elders program connects gift givers with seniors who have no funds or family to provide them with basic necessities or to remember them with a gift at the holidays. You can help by becoming an "Elf."

Simply pick a tag off a tree containing the wish list of someone in need. Buy an item or two and return the gifts unwrapped to the location on the tag. No gift is too small, and if you do not have time to shop, mail a gift card to “Elves, Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N., 33701 and an Elf will shop for you.

Trees are located at Bealls Stores in; Largo Mall, Gateway Mall, and Oldsmar Mall. More trees are located at Pasadena Office building at 1135 South Pasadena Ave.; The Walgreen's on 54th Ave. and Ninth Street; Walgreen’s on U.S 19 and Central Avenue; and the Big Lot's on 62nd Ave.

Gifts are taken to The Sunshine Senior Center where head "Elf" Carol Radin, administrative assistant, Office on Aging for the city of St. Petersburg works with other Elves who put the bags together, then distribute the gift bags to the case managers and guardians of the needy seniors, who deliver them to the seniors. Deadline to drop off the gifts at the trees is Dec. 12. The list is long this year with more than 450 needy seniors.

Toys for Tots

Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair, a Pinellas-based auto repair, is trading free oil changes and tire rotations or $20 in auto repair service to any customer who brings in a new, unwrapped toy for the Marines' "Toys for Tots" program through Dec. 10.

According to Tina M. Denham, president of Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair, "this is the seventh year we have joined with the Marines and their worthwhile program, and we are very excited our support makes a positive impact in the lives of children. Last year our customers donated approximately 1,000 toys for the less fortunate children in our community.”

Customers have the option of trading the new toy for an oil change and tire rotation on the spot or exchanging the toy for a voucher for a free future oil change and tire rotation or $20 off any service.

The company has also added another component to the Toys for Tots drive, a contest on Facebook. Facebook users can guess how many toys they think the company will collect at all 16 Ice Cold Air locations. Each guess counts as $1 toward charity. The winner receives a $50 VISA Gift Card but also then selects which charity receives the donation for the total number of votes. Donations will be accepted at all 16 Ice Cold Air locations. The toys must be in the original packaging and unwrapped. Visit www.icecoldair.com for a list of locations.

Toys for Tot drive

Sand Key Realty is sponsoring Fill the Sand Key Limo with Toys on Saturday, Dec. 15, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In exchange for an unwapped toys, gift givers will receive a thank you raffle ticket. The raffle drawing begins at 4:30 p.m. for prizes donated by The Shoppes of Sand Key. The prize gift certificates range from ice cream cones to a dozen rose a month for a year. Event organizers hope that the raffle tickets will entice people to give more toys, as there a lot of local children in need of holiday cheer this year.

Christmas toy and clothes drive

Sound Mind Ministries, a Christian-based Counseling Service, needs winter wear jackets, coats, hoodies, sleeping bags and gloves. The service, located at 1130 Pinehurst Road in Dunedin, Suite E., is also organizing its annual Christmas toy drive and needs donations. Sound Mind Ministries doors are open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., pick up or drop off.

The counseling service, which just celebrated its fourth year in Dunedin, is based on a sliding scale according to income and offers marriage, family and single counseling. To learn more about the ministries, call Sound Mind Ministries at 329-6463 or visit soundmindministries.net.

People That Love Church and Mission

Food is being collected for the holidays and for daily distribution at the People That Love Church and Mission, 817 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Canned and nonperishable foods are needed, as are 10- to 12-pound turkeys. All donations may be delivered at any time. For information, visit www.peoplethatlove.com.

Canned goods for library fines

All Clearwater Public Library branches will offer an amnesty period for overdue materials in exchange for a donation of nonperishable goods. The offer is valid through Friday, Dec. 21.

Anyone who has fines may bring their canned goods or nonperishable foods to any Clearwater library branch and present them at the circulation desk with the overdue materials if available. Staff will waive any fines due, and the donated food will go toward a holiday charity food drive.

Call 562-4970.

First Bank collects Toys for Tots

Eight First Bank branches in Pinellas County will participate in the 2012 Toys for Tots campaign, a U.S. Marines Corp League program that collects and distributes toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community.

Through Dec. 10, First Bank customers and others in the community are invited to stop by the following First Bank offices during regular lobby hours and drop off new, unwrapped toys:

• Pinellas Park, 7600 U.S. 19 N.

• Pasadena, 6850 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

• Kenneth City, 5825 54th Ave. N.

• Seminole, 13700 Park Blvd.

• Walsingham, 13175 Walsingham Road, Largo

For information, call Kathy Carlson at 896-1641, ext. 11201.

Salvation Army - Clearwater

Clearwater Salvation Army is seeking volunteers to help with holiday activities, including the following.

- Walmart Fill-A-Truck, Dec. 8, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers needed to assist with handing out toy wish lists to shoppers and collecting donated toys.

- Christmas Distribution, Dec. 17-18. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers needed to assist with the Christmas toy and food distribution.

For more information, call Jo Ann Bruner at 727-725-9777, ext. 104 or email JoAnn_Bruner@uss.salvationarmy.org.

Salvation Army - St. Petersburg

Salvation Army in St. Petersburg has a number of volunteer opportunities just in time to help hundreds of families in lower Pinellas County with gifts of love and hope for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year 7,513 men, women and children received assistance. Help is needed in the following areas.

- Bell ringing through Dec. 24. Priority for Volunteer Bell Ringers will be on Fridays and Saturdays at the Publix Stores, Walmart, and Tyrone Mall stations. Minimum shift is two hours.

- Angel Tree through Dec. 7. 'Host' an Angel Tree in your office, lobby, store or church. Also, volunteers are needed at the Angel Tree Booth located inside Tyrone Square Mall by JCPenney.

- Christmas toy sorting, Dec. 10-14. Assist staff in sorting and packaging toys for needy children in the community.

- Christmas distribution, Dec. 18-20. Distribution of food, toys and other assistance to 1,000 plus families from the community.

- Christmas Eve Community Dinner, Dec. 24. Come help prepare, serve and clean up after the Community Christmas Dinner.

- After Christmas, Jan. 7-31. Check dates and stock food donated to our Social Services Department in their pantry.

For more information about volunteer opportunities, call Gail Stark at 727-550-8080, ext. 332 or email her at Gail_Stark@uss.salvationarmy.org.

Suncoast Brotherhood motorcycle toy run

The Suncoast Brotherhood motorcycle rights group presents its 32nd annual Toy Run on Sunday, Dec. 16, starting from the K-Mart parking lot at U.S. 19 and S.R. 580 in Dunedin. The police escorted procession begins with kickstands up at noon.

Participants are asked to bring a $5 donation and an unwrapped toy per person, all to benefit the Pinellas County Foster and Adoptive Parents Association. The group is especially asking for gift cards this year, as many of the foster kids are teenagers. The procession will start along S.R. 580 and end at American Legion Post 275 at 360 Wilson Street. For information, call Suzanne at 736-4664 or Kenny at 580-9183.

Other holiday fundraisers

Organizations throughout Pinellas use the holidays as a time to raise funds for their causes to be used year-round to help the community. The following is a list of fundraisers submitted by TBN readers.

Kiwanis Club Christmas tree lot

The Kiwanis Club of Seminole’s Christmas tree lot is open at 8450 113th St., next to the former Seminole Chamber of Commerce building. The lot will be open weekdays from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m. until all trees are gone. The lot features Frazier fir trees. Most major credit cards are accepted. Proceeds will benefit the club’s various community service projects.

Boy Scout’s Christmas Tree Sale

Boy Scout troop 371’s annual Christmas tree sale continues through Dec. 20, at Christ the King Lutheran Church. 11220 Oakhurst Road, Largo. The trees will be sold from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday; and 1 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Proceeds go to the troop's upcoming campouts and other troop needs

24th annual Deck the Halls

Purchase ornaments for the holiday tree and help Suncoast Hospice Saturday, Dec. 8, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at ArtLofts at Florida Craftsmen, 10 Fifth St. N., St. Petersburg. All artist-made ornaments sell for $5 and proceeds go to Hospice. For more information, call 727-418-8887 or email Vlkrie@aol.com.

Holiday shopping fundraiser

The Grand Central District, located just west of Downtown St. Petersburg, is hosting a holiday shopping promotion that will raise money for Ronald McDonald Charities of Tampa Bay. For the weekend of Friday, Dec. 7 through Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 percent of qualifying sales made at participating merchants will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay. Shoppers must mention the promotion at the time of purchase for their sale to qualify.

As part of the promotion, shoppers are invited to come to the Grand Central District on Saturday, Dec. 8, between 5 and 8 p.m. for additional holiday fun. Activities include free trolley rides to transport shoppers along Central Avenue, judging of the Grand Central District Window Decorating Contest, and a gift wrapping station. There will also be carolers and other holiday characters roaming the District (including Santa). Hubby Day Care will also be available.

Ronald McDonald House of Tampa Bay provides a "home-away-from-home" for families with children receiving medical treatment in bay area hospitals. For more information about the organization, visit www.rmhctampabay.com.

"The holidays are a difficult time for our families, who find themselves caring for their hospitalized child, work and family commitments, and juggling medical bills. Having the support of a caring community makes all the difference to these families," said Executive Director and CEO Janice Davis. Community contributions allow us to keep our doors open and provide for these families.

For more updates, and a list of participating merchants, visit www.grandcentraldistrict.org. Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are available. For more information, call Lauren Ruiz, GCDA's executive director, at 727-828-7006 or email gcda@grandcentraldistrict.org.

Holiday gift wrapping

Holiday gift wrapping at the Tyrone Square Mall, 6901 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg, benefits Suncoast Hospice. Look for the booth stationed near the Dillard’s Court next toe Elizabeth’s through Dec. 24. Prices range from $2 for small boxes to $5 for an extra-large box.

All Children’s Hospital gift catalog

All Children's Hospital is taking part in the launch of the first-ever crowdfunded hospital gift catalog –www.GiveMiracles.org – as part of a national campaign led by the world’s largest crowdfunding-for-good platform, Fundly, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Through www.GiveMiracles.org, individuals wanting to give back with their holiday gifts can purchase critically needed medical equipment and medical care for children at All Children's Hospital.

Once donors choose their gift from the www.GiveMiracles.org catalog, ranging from comfort toys ($30), to a pediatric wheelchair ($970), to an entire hospital wing devoted to neonatal intensive care ($12 million), they will receive updates on exactly how their gift is being utilized.

Individuals can launch their own personalized crowdfunding campaign on the www.GiveMiracles.org platform to collectively purchase big-ticket, high-impact medical items for the hospital through small donations from friends and family via Fundly, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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