Zach McGuire, 11, is selling his toys to help his dad, Tom McGuire, left, a contractor who has been out of work since December.
This weekend, Zach McGuire hopes to sell the remainder of his childhood toys to help with his family's mounting bills.
"I don't know how to feel, but I'm doing it for my family, to save my home," the McGuire youth said of his decision to sell his toys.
And if anyone can sell toys to make ends meet, it's Zach. The youth is no stranger to raising funds for those in need. At just 11, he has raised more than $1,000 for various relief organizations.
It began in 2005 when the principal of Christ the King School, which he attended until last fall, asked each student to do an extra chore over the weekend to earn $1 for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Not content to raise only a dollar, Zach decided to open a Kool-Aid stand and, at his father Tom's suggestion, asked that people simply donate what they could.
Over two weekends, he raised more than $400 for Katrina victims, a feat that garnered him an invitation to meet with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who lauded his initiative and named him Citizen of the Month.
Since then, Zach has sold Kool-Aid to raise money for flood victims in Findlay and hot cocoa for California wildfire victims.
"Tom has instilled a spirit of giving in [Zach]," said Brian Smith, who has known the McGuires for more than 10 years through Christ the King Church. "He's a giving person and has taught that well to Zach."
He added that it is difficult to see someone fall upon hard times who has so generously given his time to the community.
The toys for this weekend's sale sit neatly stacked along the left wall of the McGuires' garage. Among the items are two Tonka trucks, two ambulances, and two bright red fire engines.
The toys come in pairs because Mr. McGuire wanted to make sure "there were equal toys at mom's and dad's houses," Zach said.
But now Mr. McGuire is just scraping by. The general contractor, who has been licensed with the city of Toledo since 1999, has not been able to find work since December and is financially liable for a large remodeling job he did last summer for which the customer never paid.
And as the project's general contractor, it is now Mr. McGuire's responsibility to pay for the materials used as well as the work of two subcontractors he hired. Worst of all, Mr. McGuire said he had been friends for more than five years with the gentleman who stiffed him and that he "was someone [he] trusted implicitly."
With nowhere else to turn, Mr. McGuire took legal action in September and filed a Mechanics' Lien against the owners of the property for $14,890.09, which reflected the expenses he believed to be outstanding on the project.
But upon returning in late December from building a house in Wisconsin, he said he was surprised and outraged to learn that not only had the amount filed for not been paid, but he was liable for additional materials and subcontractors' bills that had not been paid.
The matter remains unresolved and Mr. McGuire said even if he wanted to foreclose on the property, the cost of doing so would be prohibitive.
"Even if I foreclose on the lien, I will not be afforded the full benefit of the lien because of legal costs and court costs," he said. He put the total debt at around $30,000. "That was pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.
Since December, Mr. McGuire has applied for work in more than a dozen states and has renegotiated his first and second mortgages. And though he has not found work yet, he may soon thanks to the efforts of Mayor Finkbeiner and his staff.
In a meeting held Wednesday evening at the mayor's request, Mr. McGuire said he learned about contracting opportunities available through the city for licensed general contractors that were previously unknown to him.
"The impression I'm left with is they don't want to see the loss of any more businesses, of any more citizens," he said. "And if the problem is that we the business owners are uneducated about what is out there - that they want to step up and do more."
Juanita Greene, who is the city's director of community relations and was also at the meeting, said she and the mayor had wanted to speak with Mr. McGuire about the personal resources available to him through community agencies as well as educational opportunities in the city for skilled workers.
The meeting was part of an effort to meet with city residents who have been laid off and make sure they are aware of city resources. Ms. Greene and the mayor have met with about 42 people so far this year, she said.
"Mr. McGuire is an excellent citizen and we are very proud of him and his son," Ms. Greene said. "We wanted to hear about some of the personal issues he was dealing with and wanted to let him know about the resources available to him."
And Mr. McGuire said the opportunities presented were especially encouraging because they are only available to licensed general contractors. As such, he would not be competing with the unlicensed general contractors who have recently flooded the home construction and remodeling market, a factor that has only compounded his job-hunting difficulties.
According to the president of the Better Business Bureau, Richard Eppstein, the number of unlicensed contractors working in the Lucas County area increases "every time the economy goes into a tail spin."
"All of a sudden, [unemployed individuals] are roofers or remodelers," he said, and explained that unlicensed contractors can often make more competitive bids for projects because they have much lower costs.
He estimated the number of unlicensed contractors operating in the Toledo area has increased by 15 percent to 20 percent in the past year.
Yet while the McGuires are certainly facing hard times, they are not going it completely alone.
Tuesday evening, two strangers knocked at the McGuires' Sylvania Road home bearing three bags full of groceries. Someone also dropped off a Kroger card for Tom and his son.
"I always thought I could provide for my family," Mr. McGuire said. "But this economy is just too much - I'm just trying to maintain a Christian attitude."