Escambia County employees from several county departments have teamed up to give back to the community in the spirit of the holiday season, working together to collect donations and toys for local children and families in need.
More than 400 toys were collected through the annual Toys for Tots softball tournament at the county’s John R. Jones Jr. Athletic Complex, hosted by Toys for Tots in partnership with Escambia County Parks and Recreation. Over 40 teams participated in the tournament Dec. 8 and 9, with divisions for seniors, men’s, women’s, and coed teams.
To participate in the tournament, each player brings a toy to donate to Toys for Tots of Escambia and Santa Rosa County, which collects and distributes thousands of toys each year to children who may not otherwise receive gifts during the holiday season. Last year, Toys for Tots distributed 19,682 toys to more than 11,200 children in the Escambia County area.
“This tournament is always a great opportunity for softball players to enjoy some friendly competition while supporting Toys for Tots and their mission,” Parks and Recreation Director Michael Rhodes said. “Parks and Recreation is proud to help facilitate this tournament each year, which has collected thousands of toys for children in our community over many years.”
Escambia County Corrections also collected donations for Toys for Tots, which has become an annual tradition for the department. Corrections staff collected over 340 toys this year for local children.
“We love any opportunity to give back, especially when it comes to helping children in our community have a brighter holiday season,” Corrections Director Chief William “Rich” Powell said. “I’m proud to say that Corrections staff really showed up this year, using money out of their own pockets to purchase toys. Our team is always incredibly generous, and we hope these toys will bring smiles to children in our community this Christmas.”
The county’s Engineering Department opted to become “Elf Sponsors” for foster children through the Northwest Florida Health Network. Staff banded together to fulfill a foster child’s Christmas wish list, which not only included toys, but also basic necessities such as bedding and clothing.
For the second year in a row, they also supported a survivor rescued from a human trafficking situation through the Secret Place Home, whose mission is to ensure a safe space for survivors to heal and be equipped with the necessary tools to build a new future. Engineering staff donated enough items to fulfill the survivor’s Christmas wish list, along with purchasing some extra items and treats to fill a stocking for both donation recipients.
“Our team went above and beyond to make sure both of these individuals had their Christmas wish lists fulfilled, and I’m so proud of their strong teamwork and generosity,” Engineering Director Joy Blackmon said. “It’s humbling to see a child ask for items as simple as bedding and clothes for Christmas, and I’m glad we were able to do our part to help brighten their holiday season.”
Additionally, Escambia County Area Transit collected toys and donations for FavorHouse of Northwest Florida, the certified domestic violence center for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. This is the second year ECAT has supported FavorHouse during the holidays.
ECAT staff also gathered much-needed items for FavorHouse’s holiday market on Dec. 16 for families supported by their agency, collecting items such as hygiene products, clothing, wrapping paper, gift boxes, and gifts for middle and high school students.
“We’re excited to support FavorHouse’s mission for a second year, and it’s been amazing to see how engaged our team has been with collecting donations,” Escambia County Mass Transit Director Rodriques Kimbrough said.
“Any opportunity to give back to our community is so rewarding, but being able to make a difference during the holiday season makes it even more special.”