PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County man continues the work he and his late fiancee started six years ago over the holiday season.
Heath Murphy is the Executive Director of The island of unsuitable toys. He and his late fiancée, Joslyn, “adopted” a young woman over the holidays about six years ago who was fleeing an abusive relationship. The young woman had three children, and the couple took care of them with Christmas presents that year.
They continued to “adopt” at least one family a year before their acts of kindness were noticed by someone and started to take off.
“Someone found out on Facebook, I don’t know if it was the lady, the mother, that we were helping post something up there or what happened, but when more people did it found out, people wanted to help, ”says Murphy. “I was a little surprised when people started putting in money, like I was coming home and there was about $ 100 sitting under my carpet.”
The Island of Misfit Toys was incorporated as a non-profit corporation on September 25, 2019 and received tax-exempt status on October 2 of the same year. His name, of course, comes from the holiday classic “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and Murphy said the name was just stuck in his head.
The association now offers children “angel trees” in local schools the gifts they ask for, within reasonable limits.
Murphy said that in the first year, The Island of Misfit Toys became an official organization, they were able to help two schools. Last year, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they were able to help 194 children in five schools.
They also give back in other ways for the holidays, if needed.
“One of the schools we contacted said they had no problem with the angel tree but did, I think it was like 40 families, they were trying to organize dinners Christmas, ”Murphy said. “So we donated the main course, they said they had a lot of canned goods, so we, you know, had a bunch of turkeys and hams delivered and stuff like that.”
This year, Murphy hopes to help at least 300 children in Pinellas County schools and youth programs.
The campaign for donations starts early as gifts must be purchased early as The Island of Misfit Toys delivers gifts directly to schools before the Christmas holidays.
Murphy contacts the main schools office with a spreadsheet, as many of the kids on “angel trees” have very specific gift wishes. This is why the association accepts monetary donations.
“I generally try to satisfy them as much as possible, obviously we have kids asking for video game systems that cost $ 400 and we don’t, but we try to meet the demand as much as possible,” he said. Murphy said. “So buying, you know, buying like Toys for Tots, that model doesn’t really work for us.”
Murphy’s daughter, Kiersten Murphy, also helps alongside her father, helping to raise funds and manage The Island of Misfit Toys social media accounts, as well as purchasing and delivering the gifts.
Murphy says the current experience is fun for him.
“I think the first year was just Joslyn and me and the second year I think there were five of us at Walmart to buy in early December, I don’t know, that was a ridiculous amount of toys,” he said. said laughing. “I think there were 16 baskets and the poor little cashier certainly didn’t like me, but it was a lot of fun and delivering the presents was a lot of fun.”
Joslyn passed away in December 2020, but Murphy continues the efforts they started together because it was important to both of them and he wants to continue and grow.
“I think she would be proud,” he said with tears in his eyes.
Misfit Toys Island has a clickable button “make a donation” on his Facebook page, and monetary donations can also be sent to 5622 Central Ave. S, St. Petersburg, 33707.