To say this year has been a hard one for Southwest Floridians would be an understatement.
Many of our neighbors lost jobs, lost homes, lost businesses. Far too many lost everything.
In the wake of Hurricane Ian and with Thanksgiving pending as we write this, let us list some of the things for which we are most grateful: The volunteers, the organizations and the businesses that have been working tirelessly to not only rebuild but to help those impacted by one of the most devastating storms ever to hit the U.S.
Despite the hardships and heartaches of their own, there are many who have pulled together to organize fundraisers and drives for food, set up meal sites and collected money to provide for basic necessities for those who never expected to find themselves homeless.
Thank you for your efforts.
We are grateful they are ongoing.
And we urge those who can to take part.
Food drives remain in full force with annual toy drives — a collection and donation effort near and dear to local public safety agencies’ hearts — also now under way as the December holidays approach.
Among them are those organized annually by the Cape Coral Fire and Police departments.
The CCFD is accepting new toys, gifts and gift cards at 11 of its fire stations throughout the city for children who have special needs, suffer from chronic illnesses such as cancer, are in foster care, or have families struggling with financial difficulties — there are lots of them this year.
Unwrapped donations for children of all ages — that’s from birth through 17 — are being accepted through Dec. 19 at collection boxes at the following fire stations as well as City Hall:
• Station 1 – 4610 Coronado Parkway
• Station 2 – 521 Nicholas Parkway
• Station 3 – 1627 Everest Parkway
• Station 4 – 2007 Santa Barbara Blvd.
• Station 5 – 1029 Diplomat Parkway
• Station 6 – 4540 Chiquita Parkway
• Station 7 – 3942 Burnt Store Road N
• Station 8 – 707 S.W. 1st St.
• Station 9 – 4107 Pelican Blvd.
• Station 11 -1038 Burnt Store Road
• Station 12 – 2129 Chiquita Boulevard
• City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.
Station 10, at 3623 Gator Circle West, is closed due to Hurricane Ian damage.
Gifts for teens are often in short supply so the CCFD asks those who take part to consider donating gift cards, makeup, body soaps and lotions, perfume or cologne, arts and crafts supplies, sports equipment, or entertainment items for this age group.
Last year, the CCFD was able to make the holiday brighter for more than 500 children.
This year the need is greater and they hope donations will keep pace, if possible.
For more information on the toy drive, including specific gift needs and requests, to become a business partner, or to make or request a donation, visit capecoralfire.com/toy-drive.
The CCPD, meanwhile, will hold its 16th annual Fill the Boat Toy Drive the first weekend in December.
CCPD will collect new unwrapped toys for children in Cape Coral at the Walmart Supercenter at 1619 Del Prado Blvd., S.
Donation dates are:
• Friday, Dec. 2, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
• Sunday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Those wishing to participate can purchase a new unwrapped toy and place it in the boat. At the end of the drive, the toys will be taken to the Cape Coral Police Department, where they are distributed to children in need throughout Cape Coral in time for the holidays.
If you are shopping this holiday weekend, a few suggestions as you take advantage of all those Black Friday sales.
— As you select gifts for those you love, consider picking up one or two for someone in need — a toy or gift card for one of the drives, something for the adult who needs, well, everything.
— This year especially, consider “buying local,” including gift cards for use specifically at local shops and restaurants. There are some pretty good bargains out there and these types of presents are often the ones that will be remembered as they are thoughtful and unique.
— We confess this one isn’t ours but we love it — consider donating the “get one” parts of your grocery store BOGOs to a food drive or food bank.
You aren’t paying more and you’re helping someone in need of that extra staple or holiday item. (It would be nice if stores would allow or provide food bank donation boxes to make this easy.)
— Lastly, cash is always needed, needed by those food banks, needed by the numerous organizations that are repairing damages or have seen donations dwindle. Tuesday is “Giving Tuesday” for those who may have even just a little extra to share this year.
We hope your holiday weekend is a good one.
And may those of us who can help make this a merry Christmas and a happy holiday as well.
Collectively, we can make a very big difference.