ORLANDO, Fla. – In the past two weeks, Disney confirmed layoffs for roughly 15,000 union and nonunion local Disney workers.
Among those are Erin Blackketter and Laura Bartlett, who worked as part-time servers at places such as Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
“OK we’ll be back to work by June,” Blackketter thought. “OK we’ll be back to work by July. Then August and September. Then we got the layoff notifications, and we were like ‘I guess that’s it.’ It’s really devastating.”
Both Bartlett and Blackketter were able to fall back on other careers, but the two admit they are the lucky ones in this pandemic.
“We were very fortunate but a lot of our cast family that we’ve known for ten years were not as fortunate,” Bartlett said. “Not working there right now has been really heartbreaking. This is the end of an era for us.”
Now those laid off cast members hope to help others impacted this holiday season by starting “Cast Member Toy Box.”
“Cast Member Toy Box is a nonprofit holiday toy drive that benefits the children of Disney cast members who have been furloughed or laid off,” Bartlett explained.
A toy drop-off drive is scheduled for Saturday October 24 at Simply Storage at 13151 Reams Road in Windermere from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
In just about a week, the two already brought in several hundred toys, which will be given out in November and December to furloughed and laid off families in need.
“We’ve got Legos, board games, but then we’ve got baby gifts and beads and art supplies,” Blackketter said. “We want to help as much of our cast family as we can. We have children from 0 to 17, so we don’t have any specific need for one need, just whatever anyone would like to donate.”
To make a donation to Cast Member Toy Box or sign up as a recipient, click or tap here.