Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Christmas Donations for Kids, Teens Down Locally, Nationally

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Christmas Donations for Kids, Teens Down Locally, Nationally

Article excerpt

Marines leading Pittsburgh's Toys for Tots drive could be mistaken for Santa's elves this month as they work to make sure every child gets a Christmas present.

First Sgt. Jason Polanco, who coordinates the local effort, said the group has been buying about $5,000 worth of gifts at several stores almost every day in December.

Although that may seem like a lot, donations of toys and money this holiday season are behind both locally and nationally compared to previous years.

"We prefer to have an overabundance of toys. That way we don't have to turn any families away," Sgt. Polanco said. "Some years, we have enough, and some years, we don't."

It's hard to gauge the amount of toys that is needed because the number of underprivileged children changes each year. For the past several years, the national Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has provided about 18 million toys to 7 million children.

Donations locally, though, seem to be coming in slower than usual, according to Sgt. Polanco. And the national Toys for Tots foundation has received about $7 million less this year than at this time last year.

There are a number of factors that impact the Toys for Tots drives each year, but campaign officials point toward one that's having a major effect this year: the closure of Toys R Us stores.

Retired Col. Ted Silvester, vice president of the national Toys for Tots, said Toys R Us partnered with the campaign for more than a decade and raised about $5 million each year in addition to collecting around 200,000 toys in their stores.

"That was a pretty significant loss," Col. Silvester said. "We're trying to come up and fill that void."

Some businesses have stepped up.

Hasbro will be donating a million toys and games. Disney is collecting toys at all 200 of its retail stores and matching $5 for every toy collected up to a million dollars. …

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