Meltdown: 'Toys for Tots' runs out of toys

Meltdown: 'Toys for Tots' runs out of toys »Play Video
The Toys for Tots warehouse stands nearly empty as Christmas approaches.
The economic meltdown is showing its ugly face in one more way this holiday season - "Toys for Tots" has run out of toys in the greater Puget Sound region.

The Toys for Tots drive, sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is the one place where low-income and needy families have always been able to turn at Christmas when all else failed.

But not this year.

"This is my fourth year and this is the worst I've seen it here," said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph Books.

A Seattle-area warehouse that is normally overflowing with crates of dolls, Legos, and board games stands nearly bare as volunteers' footsteps echo off the empty walls. Workers scrape the bottoms of donation drop boxes that contain little or nothing.

In previous years, Books says, "We would go out daily and pick up those boxes and they'd be full. Now maybe there's two or three toys in them."

The Marine Corps Reserve has received only 5,000 toys so far in the Puget Sound region. Last Christmas they handed out 300,000 toys.

"When we try to fill the orders, we have to cut the orders in half and then some because there isn't anything," says Toys for Tots volunteer KeriAnn Kiriu-Imamura.

The Rev. Eddrick Grant of World Changers Christian Center says he was hoping to get 10,000 toys for needy children from Toys for Tots. But he says he'll be lucky to get anything.

Toys for Tots also is seeing more requests for toys from first-timers because of widespread layoffs and salary cuts at area employers.

Stanley Lengele is one of those first-timers. His salary's been cut, his car repossessed, and he tells his four children Santa has run into a recession.

"This is the hardest time in my life. I've always been able to provide for my family and I can't," he says.

Desperate families are calling daily and receiving disappointing news that bins are bare.

The Marine Corps is telling them to call back three days before Christmas to see if there's anything left.

Toy Drive

A KOMO News Problem Solvers "Toys for Tots drive" will be next Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can drop off a toy that day at any Wal-Mart store in Federal Way, Marysville, and Bremerton.