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Santa could use some help

Santa may traditionally come down the chimney on Dec. 25, but for kids helped by a couple of local charities, today's the big day. And that has organizers concerned, because they know their toy sacks are far from full.

The Marine Corps' Rogue Valley Toys for Tots is running short of young girls' toys and the Salvation Army has received only about half of the toys it needs for 1,827 underprivileged Jackson County children.

Monica King, a Salvation Army employee, reviewed the lists of children who have gifts in their bags so far and those who don't.

The lack of toy donations means that 2-year-old Astrid will get a tricycle, but 14-year-old Trevor has nothing available so far, she said.

Everybody will eventually get something, but it may not be the stuff of Christmas dreams, she said.

"It will depend on whether we give them something nice or a stocking stuffer from the dollar store," she said.

Monte Fraser, local coordinator for Toys for Tots, said his organization is particularly short of toys for girls ages 7 to 10 and still needed about 350 more. Toys for Tots donations will be handed out to about 2,000 needy families at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Donations can be dropped off at local fire departments or any Human Bean coffee stand.

Some years are more difficult than others to get enough donations, but Fraser said local residents usually pull through. Time, however, is growing very short.

"I have faith the people of this area have a good heart," he said.

The Salvation Army extended its deadline to today to drop off toys at its Distribution Center, 315 Fifth St., Medford (the old Lithia Dodge Building); the Medford Thrift Store, 922 N. Central Ave., the White City Thrift Store, 2400 Antelope Road, and the Phoenix Thrift Store, 4149 S. Pacific Highway. Toys should be dropped off no later than 5 p.m. today.

Jackie Agee, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, said her organization will still accept donations after today, but only at the thrift stores.

A last-minute donation Monday from an anonymous donor provided the Salvation Army with $400 worth of $10 gift certificates, she said. The lack of toys is worrisome for the Salvation Army, which is going through the wish lists of children but finding there isn't enough for everyone.

"This is a direct reflection of the economy," said Agee. She said donations for the Salvation Army's kettle drive in front of many stores are off by 25 percent this year.

Fraser said his organization also has seen a big decline in donations.

Normally, the program would have $10,000 to $15,000 in cash donations so far, but only has $5,000 this year. That money will be spent to buy toys, he said.

Fraser's big concern is that not enough toys will be donated for other agencies that also pass out gifts during the holiday season.

Foster care and migrant farm-worker organizations as well as local police departments pass out toys. The police fill their trunks up with toys that they give to needy families during their rounds.

"They are the ones getting left out in the cold this year," Fraser said.

His organization passes out toys to up to 5,000 children for Christmas through the various programs it supports. Fraser said Toys for Tots, which has an all-volunteer staff locally, usually has little trouble getting toy donations

"At this point last year, we filled all the bags and we were ready to go," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

Melanie Montaillier and her children, James, 4, and Caroline, 8, of Talent were among the volunteers filling Christmas gift wish lists at the Salvation Army distribution center Monday. Organizations that give toys to children are reporting big drops in donations this year. - Bob Pennell