The call came on Dec. 16, and it was unexpected.
Darrin Simone, who was leading the Lakewood Ranch Elks' toy drive, was collecting toys from boxes the Elks had placed at 26 Walgreens in Manatee and Sarasota Counties with 15 other volunteers. The donations were impressive, almost 800 toys.
But Simone still was trying to arrange for the toys to go to a nonprofit that would do the best work with them. Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh suggested Simone work with Hope Family Services, which has a primary goal "to provide services to survivors of domestic violence and help them stay safe, gain strength, and evaluate their options."
So Simone called and reached Hope Executive Assisstant Lynn Lavigne Quinn. She was thrilled and by the evening of Dec. 16, was loading up the toys in a van at the Elks Lodge.
"It's way important," Quinn said of the donations. "These are women in crisis and they are not thinking of Christmas. They are thinking of providing their children with basic needs."
Hope Family Services hosts a "Mothers Shop" with the donated toys.
"I definitely was blown away by the donations," Quinn said.
Simone thanked Walgreens and his Elks volunteers for making it all possible.
"It's a great cause," he said. "It's what we, as Elks, care about — family."