Donations lag as demand grows in recession 

Gina Crawford got on the T-Third streetcar with a new, blue mountain bike Saturday. She was taking it to her home on Potrero Hill to give it to her 10-year-old son. Crawford received the gift from the San Francisco Firefighter Toy Program.

“I get my son a new bike every year,” she said. “Everyone is so nice about it.”

Toy donations are down however; the firefighters collected about half as many toys as usual, with books and toys for girls in especially short supply.

That seemed to be the case this year with many donation drives — at a time when there’s increased need.

Across town in the Tenderloin, donors drove in Saturday for the first day of the St. Anthony Foundation’s annual Curbside Donation Drive, pulling up in beautiful new cars and beaten-down jalopies to drop off everything from used clothing to frozen turkeys.

Francis Aviani, spokeswoman for St. Anthony’s, said the foundation is receiving about the same amount of donations as previous years, but the big difference is that there is more demand, citing a 40 percent increase in demand for the emergency food pantry.

Vince Quackenbush, who often volunteers himself at St. Anthony’s, brought by two unopened bags of socks, since he knew they were much-needed items.  “I see people all the time with wet dirty socks around the holidays,” Quackenbush said.

The San Francisco Police Department’s toy drive is also seeing fewer contributions. Toys and monetary donations are down 50 to 60 percent compared to 2008, according to Officer Todd Burks, who called the collection effort, “one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done since I’ve been in the Police Department.”

The San Francisco Bar Pilots also held it’s annual toy drive and pulled together 160 bikes, some toys and a $3,000 check, according to Captain Bruce Horton. The toy collection was about 50 percent lower than last year.

About 200 or so families come out to the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program every day leading up to the holidays. On Saturday, children came with their parents to a donation site in Mission Bay to test out new wheels or collect a bag of toys.

San Francisco Fire Lt. Shon Buford, the director of the union’s 60-year-old toy program, said volunteering for the program is a way to give back to the community.

“I had people help me throughout my life and I wanted to do the same,” Buford said.

Places to give for the holiday season

Some places still accepting much-needed donations:

San Francisco Police Department’s Operation Dream Holiday toy drive
New, unwrapped toys are being accepted through Christmas at each of the city’s 10 district stations.
For more information: Call (415) 678-7373 or send an e-mail to operationdream@yahoo.com.

San Francisco Firefighters’ Toy Program
Toys can be dropped off at any fire station; the program also places collection barrels at various stores, street fairs and other businesses around The City.
For more information: (415) 777-0440.
   
St. Anthony’s 22nd Annual Christmas Curbside Donation Drive
Donations of warm clothing, new toys, dried and canned foods can be dropped off at the curb; volunteers will be on site in red jackets to receive donations through Dec. 24 at St. Anthony’s, 119 Golden Gate Avenue
For more information: (415) 241-2600

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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