The Galloway Township-based Marine Corps League Detachment 194, which runs the Atlantic County chapter of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's nonprofit Toys for Tots, has hardly had a hiccup in its many years running the collection drive - but this year, circumstances have strained the effort like never before.
In late October, thousands of collected toys were stolen from a locked storage trailer, leaving the effort at half strength at the start of the season's critical point. Couple that theft with a devastating superstorm that has turned many area residents - some of them last year's donors - into recipients, and the Atlantic County chapter is in full-on crisis mode.
"We're at a 50 percent disadvantage already, and we're getting even more calls because of Sandy," said Detachment 194 Junior Vice Commandant Bob Fudala. "People out of work. It's really hurting us bad this year."
Last year, Detachment 194 distributed almost 23,000 toys to about 900 families and about 40 nonprofit agencies. This year, many more families and nonprofits are applying, and there are far fewer toys to go around.
But efforts are still being made to make this Christmas season a special one for children in the area.
"I just wanted to let everybody know that if you need toys or anything, please apply. We're willing to help out every family that we can, through this whole thing," volunteer Ti Plummer, of Northfield, said.
To apply for toy pickup or for a list of dropoff locations in your town, visit toysfortots.org and look up Atlantic County under the "Donate a Toy" tab. To contact the Atlantic County effort directly, email atlantic.toysfor
firstname.lastname@example.org or call Frank Vesely at 609-868-0003.
Toys will be collected through Dec. 15, and distributed from Dec. 17-21.
Contact Braden Campbell: