In 2010, Robert Sena, Charlie Venturi and Aaron Resnick looked for a way to give back to the community by doing volunteer work.
The three friends then started the Little Lighthouse Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps connect people with volunteer opportunities for children with educational, financial and medical hardships.
On Saturday, Dec. 19, the Lighthouse Foundation held its fourth annual toy drive, in which volunteers collected toys for children and teenagers and invited them from various centers in Miami to pick out their favorite items and take a picture with Santa Claus. More than 100 volunteers participated in the drive.
“The first year we did this toy drive, we had a party at my house and we asked everyone to bring a toy and it was probably 300 to 400 toys,” said Sena, 40 “Each year this has gotten progressively bigger. Last year we had about 600 toys. This year it exploded and we’re at over 2,000.”
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The toys were collected through placing 20 drop locations around Miami. A party was also hosted the night before with 400 guests, who either brought toys or made donations for more to be bought.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, the volunteers from the Little Lighthouse foundation arrived at Jungle Island, where they filled a room with the toys and a photo booth for Santa Claus and two elves to sit and take pictures with every child after they picked their two favorite toys.
At noon, the children began to arrive. Three-hundred children and teens from Chapman Partnership for the Homeless, Children’s Home Society, Lotus House and Special Olympics got the chance to pick out toys. Later, leftover toys are donated to Miami Children’s Initiative within other children’s organizations.
“This is a good way to engage new volunteers,” Sena added. “This is the time of year when people want to give and do something, and I think if we can get people exposed to this once, its an opportunity to get them exposed year-round.”