MINNEAPOLIS - When Minnesota Marines look through their warehouse at the toys they'll give to kids in need, they can't believe the near empty bins and boxes.
While donations to Toys for Tots do fluctuate year to year, this December is the worst they can recall.
“We definitely didn't have it like it is now,” said Sgt. Otto Villavicencio, Twin Cities Toys for Tots coordinator.
In the six days since toy collection started, the Marines say their supply is down 25 percent from this time last year. Typically, a truck packed full with donations comes to their Minneapolis warehouse every day; this year, it's come just three times. And they're especially low on gifts for older kids.
“We're always going to get toys for children with age ranges from 3 to 5 all the way up to six and seven,” said Villavicencio. “But from (ages) 8 to 15 is what we struggle with the most.”
A list of their biggest needs includes many things for teenagers who are often overlooked: board games, backpacks and sports equipment. The Marines say some donors find that age group harder to buy for, but you can always make a cash donation.
And gifts for all ages are sharply down, so much that even kids themselves are trying to help. Some are giving away their birthday presents, sharing both their toys, and the holiday spirit.
“They come here to the warehouse and donate all the toys they got at their birthday party,” said Villavicencio “It helps us realize that it's worth it.”
Minnesotans across the state are already stepping up and trying to help. Just this morning more than a thousand people brought toys to a drive through 93X radio, and drop-offs to the KARE 11 have been steady.
There are drop off points throughout the Twin Cities, and we'd love for you to drop them here at the KARE 11 tent - which is open every day through December 16. You can also donate money through KARE 11's Give 11 here.