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The economy impacts local Toys for Tots drive

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – The bad economy is having a major impact on the Toys for Tots program in the D.C. area.

Donations are not pouring in this year, which means more kids will be waking up on Christmas morning without anything under the tree.

Staff Sgt. Oscar Villegas is the Toys for Tots coordinator for northern Virginia, which serves Arlington, Caroline, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, King George, Orange, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.

“It’s a little sad this year,” says Staff Sgt. Villegas, who is coordinating the efforts for the second year in a row. “We are feeling the effects of the economy.”

Last year, Toys for Tots collected 139,000 toys. This year, Villegas says the organization will be lucky to get half that amount.

“By this time last year, you would have seen our warehouse filled literally to the top of the roof,” he says. “(Now) we are struggling to fill orders for needy children and families.”

Manassas resident Wally Skaja sees the difference. This is the third year that he and his family have stopped by the Toys for Tots warehouse in Woodbridge to drop off toys and work as volunteers sorting and counting the toys. He says last year there was a huge pile on the warehouse floor.

“This year there’s no pile,” says Skaja. “There’s more demand and less supply.” Villegas says his own mother was helped by Toys for Tots when he was a kid, so he’s happy to be a part of this holiday program.

However, he is worried about this year’s short supply of toys.

“Yeah, Christmas morning when, you know, Santa forgot to come to someone’s house – that’s pretty heartbreaking,” he says.

There is still time to help contribute to Toys for Tots. The Marines will be collecting toys through Dec. 18 at toy drop-off sites.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)