There are collection boxes for Lee County’s Toys for Toys program at the Smoke & Barrel and Southern Jewelers, both on Steele Street in downtown Sanford.

The holiday season is right around the corner, and an effort to provide toys for Lee County children who might not otherwise get them is in full swing at two downtown businesses.

Collection boxes for Lee County’s “Toys for Toys” program can be located at two Steele Street businesses, the Smoke & Barrel and Rant sponsor Southern Jewelers. The program is accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys through the Christmas holiday.

Lee County’s program, which started in 2006, is led by coordinator J.J. Cuff. He said he serves about 350 families – about 850 children total – each year. That’s a lot of toys to collect in a relatively short period of time.

“We’re trying to bring the spirit of Christmas to children who might not be able to have a Christmas,” Cuff said, explaining that Toys for Tots was founded in the late 1940s by members of the U.S. Marine Corps. “Sometimes we forget what we have and we take things for granted.”

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In addition to the drop off sites downtown, Cuff said those wanting to donate can also get in touch through the organization’s website. Additionally, if you’re a family in need, you can use the site to apply to receive gifts for your children. You must be the legal guardian of the children in question and reside in Lee County to apply.

Cuff said that many times, parents coming to pick up gifts have to bring the children with them, turning the pickup time into a defacto Christmas morning.

“We see it when the parents come to pick up the toys, and these kids are jumping up and down because they thought they weren’t going to get anything at all,” he said.