TEMPLE TERRACE — Jan Sutton has never been one who seeks attention.
But she has no qualms in telling people about her passion for collecting teddy bears and Beanie Babies — and selling them to benefit a group of children she believes deserve special consideration all their own.
“It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about the kids.”
Toward that end Sutton is planning to host an open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 31 in her home at 6814 Monet Circle in Temple Terrace. It’s where she houses the countless donations she’s garnered in recent months in anticipation of the upcoming event.
The public is invited to stop in, browse and buy whatever cuddly creatures catch their fancy.
Sutton has raised more than $25,000 over the past six years, which in turn she’s donated to Joshua House, a residential group care program in Lutz for children 6 to 17 who’ve been abused, neglected and abandoned.
She specifically stipulates that the money be spent on activities for the kids, such as pizza parties, movies and trips to area attractions.
Sutton — who when she invites guests to her home for special occasions requests they bring teddy bears or Beanie Babies in lieu of wine as tokens of their appreciation — also raises money for children’s holiday parties at Joshua House as well as raises funds for the boys and girls softball uniforms.
To supplement the sales of the donated items she assembles and mans a large booth — of course with an array of teddy bears and Beanie Babies for sale — near Dillard’s at the Shops at Wiregrass from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Saturday of every month.
“I just can’t imagine what it’s like for her to set up the tables and all the bears,” said DeDe Grundel, executive director of the Friends of Joshua House Foundation. “She is a wonderful lady who just wants to help those kids.”
In recognition of Sutton’s generous contributions for the children at the Joshua House, the foundation awarded her the 2013 Olin Mott Golden Heart Award, named after one of its founders.
Terry Perkins is the fire chief of the Medulla Volunteer Fire Department in Lakeland and an employee of the company Sutton’s husband founded, which is now run by their son. Perkins said that during the Christmas holidays his crew raised enough money to purchase more than 150 new teddy bears — bears they donated to her cause.
“We were happy to do it because Jan is so supportive of Joshua House and those kids,” he said.
Donations, however, need not be new because Sutton also is in the doll repair business and is happy to mend a “broken” arm or most any other “boo-boo” an item may have.
For more information or to donate items, call (813) 980-2507.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.