(pixelnaiad / Flickr Commons)
(pixelnaiad / Flickr Commons)

While children throughout the Bay Area wait with excitement to find out what gifts are under the Christmas tree on Wednesday, a last-minute toy drive is underway to ensure that less fortunate youngsters receive gifts on Christmas Day, too.

The 13th annual Lefty O’Doul’s “Last Chance” toy drive, which has become a staple in San Francisco, is happening today. A year ago, the one-day drive collected more than 10,000 toys. This year, event organizers are hoping to exceed that number.

Many San Francisco leaders — including Mayor Ed Lee, police Chief Greg Suhr and fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White — were on hand to help out this morning, and sang Christmas carols around a piano at the front of the restaurant.

“This is a great statement departmentally,” with the police and fire departments working together, the Rev. Amos Brown said.

This event, which is in collaboration with the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, is “bringing people together and epitomizes Christmas,” Brown said.

Carolers and musicians from throughout the Bay Area are providing live musical entertainment all day.

Police and firefighters will distribute the donated toys to the children throughout today and on Christmas.

San Francisco resident Francena Cranshaw said she stops by Lefty O’Doul’s every year with her two children to drop off toys. She said donating to the toy drive “helps the kids learn to share.”

The toy drive began at about 5 a.m. today and is expected to continue until last call at Lefty O’Doul’s at about 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Those wishing to donate can pull up to the curb at 333 Geary St. or call Luxor Cab for free toy pickup at (415) 282-4141. The toys should be new and unwrapped.

There are also opportunities to donate food and other items until 3 p.m. today at St. Anthony’s in San Francisco — and you can do it curbside, without leaving your car. St. Anthony’s is looking for hams, new socks, pantry items, unopened hygiene items, and cold-weather outerwear to distribute in gift bags to their guests on Christmas Day.

For other donation opportunities in the Bay Area, check the Mercury News’ list of community groups in your area who are still accepting items. Your nearest food bank is a good bet — and most all of them accept cash donations online.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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