By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Organizers of the local Toys for Tots campaign said the bad economy is making matters worse by driving down supply.
“We need all the help we can get so we can cover every child here,” said Dan Abbott, Clallam County Toys for Tots coordinator for the past seven years.
Demand for toys is up by about 25 percent this year from last year throughout the county, Abbott said.
In the Port Angeles area, that number is closer to 50 percent, assistant coordinator Eric Miner said.
While a poor economy has driven the need for gifts to unprecedented levels, donations, Abbott said, “have been a little slow.”
“This week will be kind of critical,” Miner said.
Miner said the goal this year is to provide 3,920 children with two toys each, and a ballpark figure of the number of toys on hand as of Saturday was about 1,870.
“We’re about 4,490 toys short at this time,” Miner said Saturday.
To illustrate the lag in donations, Miner mentioned Friday that he was sitting at the Walmart in Port Angeles “and I’ve got two trash bags full of toys.
“Usually, we would have a pickup load by now.”
Last year’s local Toys for Tots campaign provided 7,900 toys to 3,050 needy Clallam County kids.
The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program provides toys to underprivileged children across the nation.
The nonprofit organization works with foster homes, churches, Boys & Girls clubs and other groups to ensure that every kid receives an age- and gender-specific holiday gift.
The goal is to deliver “a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens,” according to www.toysfortots.org.
Despite the bad economy, Abbott and a team of more than 40 Toys for Tots volunteers in Clallam County are determined that every kid gets a gift.
“I will not, personally, allow one child to go without a Christmas present,” Abbott said.
“It will not happen on my watch.”
The Mount Olympus Detachment of the Marine Corps League is seeking new, unwrapped toys or monetary donations.
Gifts can be dropped off at one of 52 locations in Clallam County.
Use the drop-down bars on the Toys for Tots website to find the Clallam County page and click the “find a store near you” box on the lower-right side of the screen.
There are 27 drop-off locations in Port Angeles, 21 in Sequim and four in Forks.
There are also three manned collection sites in Clallam County — the Port Angeles and Sequim Walmart stores and Swain’s General Store in Port Angeles. These sites will be open Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Port Angeles Junior ROTC cadets assist with the toy collection and distribution.
Miner said 14 agencies in Clallam County distribute the toys before Christmas Day.
Online donations submitted from the local Toys for Tots website support Clallam County children, Abbott said.
Toys collected and purchased are stored in undisclosed locations in Port Angeles and Sequim until they are distributed through the partner agencies.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.