The Gulf County Sheriff’s Office is starting their toy drive for the holidays a little early this year.
With inflation on the rise and housing costs still high, Sheriff Mike Harrison said he expects this year’s GCSO Toy Drive will have to meet an even greater need than in the past.
“We anticipate having a very busy year with the decline in the economy and the price of everything,” Harrison said. “I think there’s a lot of people that are needing assistance.”
The GCSO Toy Drive provides Christmas presents for hundreds of Gulf County children every year, with families selected with the help of the school district and other families serving the area’s youth.
These gifts, which are collected as donations or purchased using monetary donations, are distributed in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
More than 18.6 percent of Gulf County’s children live below the poverty line, according to the most recent estimates by the Census Bureau. This is up from 15 percent in the prior census.
But Harrsion said he feels confident that the toy drive will be able to accomplish its goals as it has in years past.
“As always, I know the community’s going to step up and help us, and we’re going to be able to meet the needs.”
Members of the community are invited to drop off donations of new toys, in their original packaging, at one of several drop off locations around the county.
- The Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, located at 418 Cecil G. Costin Boulevard
- Gulf 2 Bay Construction, located at 1934 SR 30 A in Simmons Bayou
- South Gulf Fire Rescue Volunteer Fire Department Station One in Cape San Blas
- Beach Realty, located at 223 Reid Avenue
- The St. Joseph Bay Golf Club, located off of Country Club Drive
- Capital City Bank, located off of Highway 98 in Port St. Joe
- The Cape Trading Post, located on Cape San Blas Road
- and the John Gainous VFW Post, located at 1776 Trout Avenue.
For those who are able, the sheriff encouraged community members to consider making a monetary donation to the drive.
“We are accepting toys, as always,” Harrison said. “But monetary donations help us get more specific on the request from the kids.”
Additional funding raised through these donations will go towards providing grocery gift cards to the families the toy drive serves.
“It helps us meet the needs not only for the kids, but for the Family,” the sheriff said. “It’s Christmas Day. Toys are great, but we like food on the table as well.”
Those who wish to are invited to make a tax-deductible cash donation to Coastal Communities Initiatives (the 501c3 arm of the COastal Communities Association). The donations can be mailed to or dropped off at 1934 SR 30A, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456.
Donations can also be made through the GCSO app, which can be downloaded here.
“Through our GCSO app, there’s a section in there dedicated to the GCSO charities page,” said Harrison. “There, people can make a monetary donation to their smartphone, and it will all be earmarked for the toy drive.”
The Coastal Communities Association, South Gulf Fire Rescue and the John C. Gainous VFW Post 10065 have partnered with GCSO to help coordinate this year’s toy drive.
The deadline to make a donation for this year’s drive is December 13. Donations received after this date will be applied to the toy drive in 2023.