Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thousands Line Up for Toys Dorcas Drake Party Crowd Down 90%

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thousands Line Up for Toys Dorcas Drake Party Crowd Down 90%

Article excerpt

Attendance was down more than 90 percent yesterday at an annual

toy giveaway that has become a Jacksonville institution.

The Dorcas Drake Christmas Party closed earlier than scheduled,

while a less-publicized giveaway sponsored by the Salvation Army

drew more families.

The Drake party was over by 2:30 p.m., the earliest organizer

Jo Drake ever remembers it ending. Drake estimated that 3,500

children received toys, down from an estimated 50,000 last year.

By contrast, the Salvation Army toy giveaway in Arlington is

expected to help more than 4,000 needy families by the time it

wraps up today.

Drake blamed the cold weather for part of the drop in

attendance but offered no overall explanation for the low

turnout. The charity had collected enough toys for 50,000

children, she said. The toys not given out yesterday will be

given away at a party in Fernandina Beach and at the charity's

warehouse.

Drake was surprised but not discouraged by the low number at

the party, named for her late mother, a former justice of the

peace who started the tradition 39 years ago.

"I know everybody had a ball," she said. "It was a great

party."

Tabetha and Scott Belcher probably would agree. The Westside

couple used to donate toys to the party. But because of hard

times, they were among the first in line to get toys this year.

"We used to help a long time ago, but this year my family's

kind of in need," Tabetha Belcher said as she, her husband and

their two daughters, Amber and Autumn, sat in front of the

Jacksonville Coliseum before the party began.

The family arrived at the Coliseum at 4:30 a.m. A volunteer

brought blankets to the family to keep them warm.

More than a thousand people had joined the Belchers by the time

the Coliseum doors opened at 10 a. …

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