Over the past four years, 35-year-old Andrea Capek has collected toys to donate to Safe Place and Crisis Resource Center and Mother's Helping Mothers families. Capek says as a 13-year-old, a SPARCC family adopted them, and she can't forget the joy it brought to her mother. Photos pictured are from the first year of the toy drive. COURTESY OF ANDREA CAPEK

Toy drive began with childhood blessing

35-year-old Sarasota woman’s drive to collect and distribute toys at Christmastime came from a moment in her childhood.

Andrea Capek has held a toy drive for the last four years to benefit two local nonprofits: Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center and Mothers Helping Mothers.

Capek said she was 13 years old when SPARCC helped her mother find shelter from an abusive marriage, but the family was struggling at Christmastime. She wasn’t expecting many gifts.

“I’m not going to make it sound too dramatic,” Capek said. “I knew there were going to be some other gifts, but I knew they weren’t going to be some coming from my mom.”

SPARCC volunteers donated gifts to Capek’s family. She said the joy it brought was a blessing.

“It made my mom feel really good at a time when things were not good,” Capek said.

Capek, with the help of Christine Goodall and other volunteers, collected enough toys to fill four minivans last year, which were split between SPARCC and Mother’s Helping Mothers. Both groups provide basic services to families, including shelter, financial assistance, furniture, and clothing.

There are 11 drop-box locations throughout the city: SignZoo; The Acorn Loft; IAS Marketing Services; Ligget Drugs; Suncoast Blood Bank; Guillermo’s Salon; Top Drawer Furniture; Jaco’s Boxing and Fitness; Keller Williams on the Water; CrossFit Sarasota; and Exit King Realty.

A special toy drive push is being held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, at Evie’s Tavern and Grill on Main Street. Drink and food specials will be offered during the affair.

Space for the toy drive is being donated for the second consecutive year by Mike Evanoff.

“I can’t wait,” Capek said. “It’s going to be big. I’m really excited.”

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