Bay Area charities in need of toys for holiday gifts

December 11, 2009 6:45:32 PM PST
The toy drive season is well underway across the Bay Area and with the recession, the need is greater than ever.

The Salvation Army in Oakland says it needs at least 2,000 toys for children whose families have signed up for assistance. So far they have only collected 200 toys, one-tenth of the need. Capt. Patricia Poochigan is worried they may not have enough gifts to share with deserving families looking for a bit of holiday cheer.

"We just haven't seen the donations come in; normally by this time, we're more than half full and this year we are way down," she said.

In San Francisco, there is a popular toy drop off location at Lefty O'Doul's near Union Square. Every year, San Francisco firefighters use the location to collect toys; especially sports toys that will help kids stay active.

One man playing Santa Claus Friday and representing firefighters says in the 20 years he has been involved in the toy drive, he has never seen such a gap between the supply and demand.

In Santa Clara, the warehouse collection site for the Family Giving Tree is humming with activity but there is also a lot of bare space. Family Giving Tree works with 250 organizations to collect gift wishes from needy children and then fulfill those specific gift cards.

"So there's 250 social service agencies who provide us with the wishes of the kids; we make a wish card and send them out to 1,000 places and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will have helped about 60,000 of those children," Queen Elf Jennifer Cullenbine said.

Cullenbine says gift donations are down about 10 percent from this time last year and cash donations are down 25 percent.

Silicon Valley companies such as Cisco and Intel had employees at the warehouse today wrapping gifts, but many more toys are needed. The Family Giving Tree hopes to grant the wishes of 60,000 children.

"Every holiday, Cisco tries to contribute and got a lot of volunteer efforts going on," volunteer David Lim said.

"It's what we can give back; it's very exciting to think of the kids waking up on Christmas Day," Intel volunteer Denise Leader said.

ABC7 also visited the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program in San Jose and the need there is just as obvious. The Marine Corp collects toys to dole out to 70,000 kids in the South Bay. Sgt. Jeremy Dion says they are running especially short on toys for the youngest children from newborns to three years old and the older kids from ages 12-16.

Everyone involved with the collection and distribution of toys says the same thing -- there is no greater feeling then knowing you are bringing a smile to the face of a child on Christmas Day.


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