MANATEE -- Row upon row of tables in the spacious warehouse were covered with board games, dolls and toy vehicles.
It was a child’s Christmas delight.
“Just like a department store,” said Linda Miller, a new Adopt-a-Family of Manatee volunteer. “I’ve never seen so many toys.”
Christmas is two months away, but on Monday morning Adopt-a-Family volunteers were busy unpacking and stacking children’s gifts to be eventually distributed to needy families from Manatee County.
Among the board games were timeless favorites Monopoly, Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, as well as a newcomer -- Justin Bieber Backstage Pass Game.
“I have a 12-year-old granddaughter and, oh my word, there’s nobody like Justin Bieber,” said Adopt president Elaine Henneberry.
It took a moving van four trips to transport the bonanza -- purchased by Adopt officials with donations -- to its distribution center at the Sarasota Bradenton Commerce Center off 15th Street East.
“We started unpacking Friday and we’ll be busy for awhile,” said Adopt vice-president Cindy Eliason. “We’ve already had people come by, wanting to fill out applications. It’s that time of year.”
Indeed, it is.
Now in its 29th year, the nonprofit all-volunteer organization will begin taking applications Nov. 1 from qualified low-income families.
Last year, Adopt provided gifts to 4,600 children from more than 1,400 families.
That number resonates with Miller, a Columbus, Ohio, native whose family had its share of struggles.
“I was one of those kids at one time and I was taken to a place very similar to this for Christmas,” the grandmother said. “Santa came, brought us toys. It was very moving.”
Adopt would duplicate that with these children, she said.
“It’s a case where children have made no mistakes, but unfortunately they’re in situations they can’t get out of,” Miller said. “This gives them hope, just like it did for me. Hope that there is goodness and people who help.”
Adopt is dependent on community donations and Henneberry said the support has been steady, given the circumstances.
“Donations are down a little bit, but it’s OK,’ she said. “When you look around and see how the economy is still affecting people, you can’t expect more, obviously.”
Henneberry certainly appreciated the donations made by several women from a mobile home park.
Each gave $5.
“It comes from the heart and that’s all you can ask,” she said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.