Toys for Tots desperately needs toys so it can provide Christmas presents for an estimated 5,000 Mid-Columbia children.
It's the worst year ever for donations, said Bill Stott, local coordinator of operations for Toys for Tots by Marine Corps League 337 of Benton and Franklin counties.
"I've never seen it this low," he said.
But demand is high. More people are asking for help, Stott said.
Stott already has 680 families with about 2,700 children signed up to receive help. Toys for Tots will be signing up the last set of kids for the program today and Sunday.
"There's a lot of people out there out of work," he said.
In addition to toy donations being down, Stott said he hasn't gotten a single cent donated through the local Toys for Tots website.
Normally, he said he'd be picking up hundreds of toys a week from the Richland Walmart. Last week, there were 65, and the Pasco Walmart hardly had any.
"There's just nothing" in the nonprofit's collection bins, he said.
That's worse than last year, Stott said, when the National Toys for Tots foundation supplied about 70 percent of the 23,000 toys given out to more than 5,000 children.
Stott said he's pinning hopes on the Walmarts and some of the Hanford companies that are strong supporters of Toys for Tots. But some companies are having to cut their donations too, he said.
Toys for Tots is volunteer-run, with an overhead of only 3 percent, Stott said.
He said the charity is using a new system this year that includes confirming that families are at or below poverty level, which is a requirement to qualify for help.
The group has also dropped the age limit for kids that get presents to 10 and under, Stott said. It just could not continue to do up to age 12.
Stott said the group tries to provide each child with a stuffed animal, a nice gift and two less-expensive toys. The average cost is $70 to $80 per child.
The Toys for Tots' distribution day is 10 a.m. Dec. 11 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick. But Stott said they will be delivering toys until Dec. 20 to other children, including foster kids and children of migrant workers.
Stott said at this point, he will take "all I can get." He's worried next year's donations might even be lower.
A list of the toy drop-off locations is available on the Benton and Franklin counties Toys for Tots website, at pasco-wa.toysfortots.org. Money also can be donated to the local Toys for Tots through the website.
Registration to receive help from Toys for Tots is from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and Sunday in the parking lot at Department of Social and Health Services offices, 1120 N. Edison St., Kennewick. Those registering will need to provide a 2009 tax return for proof of income.