Sharing at Christmastime

When making your to-do list, you might consider making a donation of funds or time to brighten someone's holiday.

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The holidays are a great time to help others in the community who might need a little assistance. There are several opportunities to help in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Here are some ways you can serve others.



The Winter Garden Police Department is preparing for its Holiday Gifts For Kids program, which provides Christmas gifts to children in need of assistance in Winter Garden.

Monetary or toy donations can be dropped off at the police department, 251 W. Plant St. New toys must be unwrapped and should be appropriate for children 12 and younger.

Because of the increasing population and limited funds, a screening process has been put in place to specifically reach the families in need of assistance. Each interested family will need to complete an application, which is available online and at the front desk of the police department.

Applications from Winter Garden residents will be accepted through Nov. 29 and are subject to review before being enrolled into the program. For details on application requirements or for more information about the program, call the Community Liaison Unit, (407) 656-3636, Ext. 5416.



The Ocoee Police Department is conducting its annual Holiday Toys, for Kids in Need program, and its success depends on contributions made by the community.

The new toys are collected from citizens or purchased through monies raised from fundraisers. This program was started in 1984 and gives toys and holiday treats to underprivileged children ages 13 and younger who might not have otherwise received any presents.

Many city of Ocoee employees donate their time to the program, so there are no administrative costs and 100% of the proceeds benefit the children. The program will reach approximately 600 children this year, and some of these needy families will also receive food baskets and donated clothing.

Registration for Ocoee residents continues until Dec. 1 at the Ocoee Police Department, 646 Ocoee Commerce Parkway. Toys will be distributed Thursday, Dec. 14.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution of new, unwrapped toys or monies can drop them off at the Ocoee Police Department. For information, contact Sgt. Mireya Iannuzzi at [email protected] or (407) 554-7197.



Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has launched the Seventh Annual Holiday Heroes Toy Drive, and donations can be dropped off at any Orange County Parks & Recreation facility or the Orange County Administration Office.

Toys benefit children in need throughout Orange County. Since the toy drive’s inception in 2011, more than 24,000 toys have been donated to children and families.

In addition, Orange County Animal Services has created a promotional campaign called Give Love, Get Love. Residents who donate an unwrapped toy Holiday Heroes will pay $10 in adoption fees during November.

For more information, go to



The 6th annual Holiday Amaryllis Festival at Nehrling Gardens is a chance to spend some time in Gotha's historic gardens. The festival is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Nehrling Gardens, 2267 Hempel Ave.

The nature-themed community event will feature a variety of amaryllis bulbs for purchase, family photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, live music, nature-themed vendors, food, a gift shop, silent auction and eco-activities for children.

There will also be a focus on “Be the Gift,” and Nehrling will collect toys and food for local charities.

Admission is free. For information, call (407) 445-9977 or go to



Give the gift of reading to a needy child in West Orange County during Observer Media Group's annual Reading Reindeer literacy program. Donate a new, unwrapped book suitable for ages birth through 15 to the offices of the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer, 720 S. Dillard St., Winter Garden. The deadline to donate is Dec. 9.



Food For Families needs volunteers to sort and box food items on Christmas Eve and then drivers to deliver the boxes on Christmas morning to needy families in West Orange County. The packing takes place in the cafeteria of Ocoee High School, 1925 Ocoee Crown Point Parkway.

On Sunday, Dec. 24, volunteers will set up the work area, unload food from Publix and local food drives and then sort and pack boxes. Two shifts are available at 7 and 10 p.m.

On Monday, Dec. 25, volunteer drivers line up in the bus loop to pick up boxes, maps and directions to the recipients's homes.

For information, call (407) 654-7777 or email [email protected].


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