BOSTON (CBS) - The season of giving is a bit slim this year over at Toys For Tots. Donations are way down for the annual toy drive organized by the Marine Corps and Massachusetts State Police.
According to Sgt. Matthew Murray of the State Police, toy donations have plummeted 40 percent, while requests for help have increased 60 percent.
"Last year the State Police collected approximately 57,000 toys and approximately $8,500 in donations. This year we're down at least half," Murray told WBZ News Radio's Laurie Kirby. "It's just a sign of the times."
"In particular children ages newborn to two and ages six to 14 are the ages they see a shortfall in toys," Murray said.
Sgt. Matthew Murray speaks with Laurie Kirby
"The need is greater than it has ever been," said Lisa Rowan-Gillis, V.P. of Development for the Home for Little Wanderers.
"This is a tough season for a lot of Massachusetts citizens. The economy is not good. We have families in tremendous need," said Joan Wallace-Benjamin, C.E.O. of The Home for Little Wanderers.
Boston city officials and other volunteers wrapped gifts Friday at The Home for Little Wanderers to raise awareness for its Big Wishes toy drive which is more than 50 years old and is now serving 10,000 kids.
"Last year, there was a little girl who showed up at our doorstep on December 25th in flip-flops and it was bitterly cold so we needed to make sure she had clothes, make sure she had Christmas gifts," explained Rowan-Gillis who said the need for gifts for teenagers is especially great.
WBZ-TV's Ron Sanders reports.
A large empty space in the South Boston Toys for Tots warehouse illustrated the need for donations, especially when considering that in recent years it was packed solid.
Retired Sgt. Major Frank Callahan, a Marine veteran of World War II and the Korean war who now serves as a warehouse coordinator, said the need seems "unreal" to him. "Where this country takes care of the whole world, why can't we take care of our own people at home?"
Some Coast Guard personnel used to water rescues are volunteering their time to throw a lifeline to children in need. "And it makes you think about how wonderful you felt during the holiday season so I think it's important to spread that as much as possible," said IT3 Katharine Ingham, U.S.C.G.
One volunteer said you never know how much a gift may inspire a child to pursue his or her passion.
State Police will join forces with U.S. Marines Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. at five Toys 'R' Us stores around the state asking shoppers to fill cruisers with donated gifts in their Toys for Tots campaign.
STATE POLICE / U.S.M.C. TOYS FOR TOTS LOCATIONS:
Dedham - 302 Providence Highway (Route 1)
Woburn – 366 Cambridge Street
Kingston - 8 Gallen Road
Auburn - 416 Southbridge Street
Springfield – 1686 Boston Road
Toys should be new, non-violent, unwrapped, and for boys and girls age newborn to 18. In particular, toys are needed for newborn to 2 years old and also for those 6-14 years old.
Monetary Donations can be sent to: MSP Toys for Tots Coordinator 124 Acton Street Maynard, MA 01754. Toys can also be donated at any State Police barracks through Dec. 17.
Gifts can also be delivered to The Home for Little Wanderers at 161 South Huntington Ave. in Jamaica Plain. Community drop-off locations and instructions on how to make a donation on line can be found at www.thehome.org/bigwishes.
WBZ-TV's Ron Sanders contributed to this report.
for more features.