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Banks' refusal to place Toys for Tots boxes in lobbies irks charity

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 09:37 AM

Toys for Tots collection boxes traditionally are placed in lobbies of retail stores, office buildings, fast-food restaurants and banks. But sometimes businesses will opt out of the program, which doesn't normally upset the charity's West Pasco coordinator.

That is unless the businesses denying their lobby space happen to be branches of big corporate banks, said West Pasco Toys for Tots coordinator John Durkin. He was referring to TD Bank and Wells Fargo, which recently nixed collection boxes in their lobbies.

The banks said they are big supporters of charities in whatever community they do business. TD Bank officials said there is a meeting set up later this week to talk about the issue with Toys for Tots officials to try to reach a resolution.

"I certainly respect people's right to support or not support a cause," he said. What irked Durkin about the banks was that, "We unceremoniously were told to get the boxes out."

Last year, Mercantile Bank and Wachovia allowed the toy collection boxes, he said. But they were bought by TD Bank and Wells Fargo, respectively, which have corporate policies against providing space for such causes, he said.

"I'm amazed at their insensitivity," he said. "The impact really is negligible. It's more of a philosophical issue."

TD Bank spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo said her bank wants to iron out any problems and had been in contact with Durkin before the matter was made public this week.

"We are trying to figure it out right now," she said. The bank does donate to charities, including United Way, she said. "We are a big community supporter. We will support Toys for Tots."

A conference call is set up for Friday to reach a resolution.

Wells Fargo corporate spokeswoman Kathy Harrison said the bank does have a policy that prohibits such activity in the bank lobbies.

"We do have a non-solicitation policy that's been in effect for a couple years," she said.

Bank employees are encouraged to contribute, participate in and volunteer for charities, she said. The bank has contributed $1.4 million to nonprofit organizations along the west coast of Florida this year, she said.

It's not just Toys for Tots that doesn't get lobby space, she said. It's everyone.

The Toys for Tots program in Hillsborough has no such issues, said U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Joshua Pavlov, the collection coordinator. He said boxes are in offices, fast food restaurants, toy stores and banks, including the Bank of America and Navy Federal Credit Union.

"We've had no problems," he said.


Lauren Mayk contributed to this report. kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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