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City Commission gifts Ocoee entrepreneur with use of park for Christmas toy giveaway

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Norine Dworkin

Founding Editor

Thursday, December 9, 2021


Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Ocoee entrepreneur and activist Eli Salhab, founder of 4 The Kids Entertainment, at the Ocoee City Commission meeting Dec. 7, 2021.

Count Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson and the four commissioners among Santa’s helpers this season.

When Eli Salhab, founder and chief executive of 4 the Kids Entertainment in Ocoee, came before the city commission Tuesday, he had a mighty big ask: would the commission expedite the group’s permit for its Christmas in the Park toy giveaway on Sunday, Dec. 12, from 1-6 p.m. at Bill Breeze Park?

Speaking during the public comment period, Salhab told the commission that more than 150 kids had already RSVP’d for the event. The smoothie bar Social Blend and Texas Roadhouse have both been collecting toys on behalf of Salhab’s organization.

Filled with holiday spirit, the commission delivered more than even Santa could: the mayor and commissioners unanimously waived the park fee and deposit ($1,500)  and picked up the tab for two police officers to attend ($400 to $800). They threw in the trash bins as a bonus when Salhab explained he lined up nearly two dozen volunteers to help clean up.

“I think it’s great to do a benefit and give toys away to kids,” said Johnson, after ensuring that Salhab carried the requisite liability insurance. (Salhab said his company carries $2 million in liability insurance.)

The mayor also directed him toward Orange County Pottys to supply the portable restrooms.

“You go talk to Mr. Stoddard and tell him I sent you, and he might be generous enough to work something out for you,” Johnson said.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Orange County Pottys’ office manager Julia Bass told VoxPopuli that she hadn’t heard about the event yet but said she’d reach out to Salhab herself.

“That’s something we’d love to be a part of,” Bass said, adding that depending on how many restrooms were needed, “we’d probably waive everything as a sponsorship package.”

Typically the commission wants to see event plans at least 30 days in advance. Salhab, an Ocoee resident, said he’s produced 10 events in other local parks and just hadn’t realized the extra requirements to secure Bill Breeze Park, like a deposit and police attendance. He promised to be better prepared the next time around.

Commissioner George Oliver III, who represents District 4, made Salhab a deal: “You come back before this commission some time in February with a well-drawn-up plan for next year, and I will help you clean up on Sunday.”

What a gift.


At A Glance:

Christmas in the Park

Dec. 12, 1-6 p.m.

Bill Breeze Park, Ocoee

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