Presents are on the way for needy children at the Boys & Girls clubs of Schenectady and Southern Rensselaer County, an official with the national Toys for Tots Foundation said Thursday.
Brian Murray, a retired U.S. Marine and the Virginia-based foundation’s vice president of operations, said toys should be arriving at both organizations sometime later this week or early next week. He said the foundation agreed to provide the estimated 1,000 toys needed for both, after it became clear the local drive wasn’t going to provide enough to fill demand throughout the Capital Region.
Last week, representatives from both clubs were concerned they might not be able to supply toys through the annual campaign, as they had for the past 15 years. The local coordinator indicated the groups wouldn’t be getting toys due to problems with paperwork that needed to be submitted to the national organization.
Murray said the national organization ordinarily steps in when there are toy shortages, but in this case, he said inexperience may have led to some confusion in allocating the scarce resources of the campaign.
Volunteers with the Electric City Detachment of the Marine Corps League are administering the program for the first time this year after an area Marine Corps Reserve unit was moved to Connecticut. With a new core of volunteers running the campaign, Murray acknowledged there were some hiccups along the way.
“But everything has played out,” he said, “and the children of the Capital Region will be getting their toys.”
Murray said the Capital Region is closely reflecting a national trend, in which communities are requiring aid from the foundation to supply toys to needy children. He suspected the down economy has finally caught up with the effort, leaving the campaign with more children needing toys and fewer donations to supply them.
Superstorm Sandy only augmented this problem, Murray said. The foundation has sent more than 1 million toys to storm-devestated areas this year, which will add to the 3.5 million toys it normally supplies to roughly 200 sites annually.
Bob Becker, local coordinator for Toys for Tots, estimated he’s seen a nearly 50 percent uptick in demand for toys. He said the group provides toys for 475 organizations in the Capital Region and had only filled about one-third of the orders he’s received so far.
“Our toy counts are down, and our kid counts are up,” he said.
The flap over giving toys to the Boys and Girls Club did have an unintended benefit. When word about the lack of toys spread, donations of money and gifts started pouring in. Shane Bargy, executive director of the Schenectady club, said the donations will help reduce some of the burden on the foundation and campaign, which supplies about 850 toys annually.
“We’ve had a lot of people sending us things,” he said.
Likewise, the Southern Rensselaer County club began taking steps to replace the gifts after they were initially told they would no longer be receiving the 350 toys they require annually. Several members of the club’s board of directors hosted their own toy drives, while others made cash donations.
Bargy does, however, want to ensure such an issue doesn’t happen in the future.
He said this year’s need is met, but he doesn’t want to be in the same position next year.
The national organization doesn’t foresee the same problems occurring again. Murray said the best way to avoid such problems is to keep open lines of communication between the organizations coordinating the campaign and those receiving the toys.
“The best tool we have in our tool box is communication,” he said. “If people talk to one another and try to reasonably work out what is needed, usually we make it happen.”