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’Tis the season for giving

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Mark Scohier

Chiefland Citizen

Citrus Countian Paul Pilny just happened to make a stop in Levy County when something caught his eye: bold black letters across the top of a November issue of the Chiefland Citizen that read “No Toys for Tots this year.”

“It killed me to see that headline. I said, ‘Oh, no, this is not good.’ I read it and was really disturbed,” Pilny said last week.

So Pilny, Citrus County’s Toys for Tots coordinator, got involved by sending an email to Chiefland Citizen Editor Lou Elliott Jones offering to give surplus toys from the previous year if she could arrange to get the toys to Levy County and then later find a way to distribute them.

“This man was just offering us toys,” Jones said. “I kind of thought it might have been a joke. His offer just kind of floored me. It was so out of the blue.”

But it wasn’t a joke, as Jones found out when a truck from the Citrus County Chronicle pulled into the Citizen’s parking lot with 20 cases of Hess trucks, five cases of batteries for the trucks, 36 Zhu Zhu Pet puppies and 12 Snow Flake Plush Ponies, all valued at about $10,000.

Pilny, with the Marine Corps League Detachment 819, has been the Toys for Tots coordinator for Citrus County for about 10 years. He said Levy County missed out on about $15,000 worth of toys from the organization this year by not having a coordinator.

“It kills me to know Toys for Tots is not in Levy County,” he said.

The late-coming news that Toys for Tots would not be offered in Levy County this year after seven-year organizers Pat and Vince Arcadi bowed out because of illness caught many others off-guard, as well. 

Karen Driggers, owner of Second Impressions Consignment, started a Facebook drive for toys after hearing the news. On Saturday, she posted that so far toys have been collected for 89 children, with three to four gifts going to each child.

“It makes me feel awesome,” she said recently. “I think so many people wanted to help, but they 

didn’t know where to start.”

Driggers said the Skinny Wallet, in Chiefland, and Second Times a Chance, in Bronson, have also helped in the Levy drive, working as drop-off points for people wishing to donate toys. All three organizations are distributing the toys from Citrus County, as well as the many donations from people in the community.

“If everybody would do a little something, it makes a big difference.”