Toys 4 Our Town Collects Gifts For Second Year
by James Coulter
Every child deserves to find a Christmas present underneath their tree or inside their stocking. One local Winter Haven woman has been working hard to ensure every child enjoys such a privilege.
For the past two years, Melanie Brown, owner of Cutting Edge Hair Salon in Winter Haven, has been hosting the Toys 4 Our Town toy drive to collect toys and other presents for local children.
This year, she and her team have been visiting several locations throughout the city and hosting toy drives to collect donations. Within the past few weeks, they have visited establishments such as Gary’s Grove, Twisted Prop, Barrel 239, and Somewhere Sports Bar.
On Sunday, she visited Tanner’s Lakeside, where she collected toy donations from many bar patrons, as well as helped provide live entertainment with local music groups such as Southerndipity and Michael LuBeck.
Over the next month, she will be hosting drives at other locations such as Apple Lounge, Jessie’s Brewhounds, Old Man Franks, Winter Haven Bar Off The Chain, Grape Expectations, and Caribbean Bay Bar.
For every donation provided, each location has provided patrons with a special coupon offering them a special offer, be it a free drink or a discounted meal.
Aside from actual toy donations, the drive is also collecting funds that will go towards the purchase of toys and other gifts. Last year, Brown and her staff were able to buy everything from bicycles, games, and even clothing.
All of the presents donated through the drive will be delivered to select homes on Christmas Day in the city through the assistance of Bobby Williams with Freedom Church and Families with Central Florida Health Care.
Along with the holiday toy drive, Toys 4 Our Town will also be hosting a free Christmas Dinner for the homeless on Christmas Day at Freedom Church.
“Overall, it is really better,” Brown said of this year’s event. “I had to turn a few people down because I am only one person. I do a lot with the locations, but I think it is growing and I want to continue to do it because I love this community and the City of Winter Haven.
As a proud business owner, Brown has used her privilege as an entrepreneur to help out with local fundraisers and even host a few of her own. She loves her hometown for allowing her to make it big, and she wants to do everything she can to give back to the community that supported her.
“Our community here together is one of the strongest communities that I am proud to be a part of,” she said. “It helps the kids here because that is what I am focused on: helping this town. Thank you for coming to support every event I am a part of, and especially with Toys 4 Our Town, and for helping to make a difference with everybody.”
Greg Gay, the owner of Tanner’s Lakeside, has been assisting with Melanie Brown and many of her events for the past five years. He appreciates being about to help out with a wonderful woman who does wonderful things for the local community.
“She helps the community a lot, a lot of valuable time helping other people, and we all love her for that,” Gay said. “It is a great cause, anything we can do to help, we try to do it.”
Performing that day were Southerndipity, the mother-daughter duo of Tenesa Cargill, her daughter, Amanda, and with the assistance of her daughter’s fiancé, Dylan Smith. This family loves their hometown, so they love being able to support it by assisting with events such as this.
“Melanie does a great job putting events together and helping children out and helping different people with their needs, so we wanted to come out here and support what is going on,” Cargill said. “She has such a great heart, and we love working next to her. It feels great.”
Michael LuBeck, who also performed at the fundraiser, has been performing at Tanner’s Lakeside first Sunday of every month for quite some time. He’s been friends with Melanie for an even longer time, and is more than willing to lend a helping hand with her projects and fundraisers.
“I do what I can for Mel, and it is a great community for people who just come together,” he said. “To me, there is nothing more important than giving a child a smile. Whatever you can do in this weird world, to make a child happy…[to do] something so insignificant to what we would consider, to a child, a rubber ball means the world. It is a great community we had here.”