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Fresh Meadows store lends Toys for Tots a helping hand

More families than ever are in need of some help when it comes to holiday shopping this year and the owners of a Fresh Meadows store are hoping their Toys for Tots drive will enable the program to meet a record high requests for gifts.

“With the way the economy is going, with the recession and parents being out of work, we wanted to help the kids who shouldn’t have to not celebrate the holidays just because things are not going so well for their families,” said Jason Pick, one of Carol School Supplies’ owners.

Pick said the owners will donate many of their own toys from the store, which sells everything from the “Madeline” book series to wooden train sets, in an attempt to help the city Toys for Tots program fill the more than 140,000 requests it has received for gifts. That number has spiked by more than 50,000 over last year, and Staff Sgt. Michael Parker, the city Toys for Tots coordinator, expects that figure to rise.

“There’s definitely a whole lot more demand this year,” Parker said. “Things have been kind of slow, but I kept thinking things would pick up, that we’d get more donations — but we haven’t,” Parker said.

Toys for Tots is a 61−year−old organization run by the U.S. Marine Corps, which donates toys to children and teenagers living at or below poverty level, a number which currently hovers around 13 million nationwide.

According to the 2005 U.S. Census, almost 17 percent of Queens children were living at or above the federal poverty line. In 2005, the poverty threshold for a single parent and two children was income of $15,735; for a married couple with two children, it was $19,806.

It is not just the group’s city office that has seen such a jump in requests for the presents. Toys for Tots leaders from Pennsylvania to California, have said they just do not know if they will be able to meet this unprecedented demand, according to Toys for Tots Vice President of Marketing and Development Bill Grein.

“We have 658 units across the country and most are saying they’re seeing a greater need and that they’re not seeing the toys come in like they have in the past,” Grein said. “I’ve talked to Philadelphia; Fresno, Calif.; and Miami, Fla., in the last day or so and everyone’s saying they’re struggling.”

Parker said there are 842 different contributors in the city — one more than last year — and 117 collection sites. As Christmas quickly approaches, Parker and Grein said they were hoping for a “miracle.”

“I’m used to a few Christmas miracles every year,” Grein said. “They’ll hopefully fall this week and next week.”

“We realize everybody is struggling, so we’re asking folks to consider giving $10 or buy one toy, and that solves one problem for one child,” Grein said. “That’s what we’re hoping — to get somebody to adopt just one child. We have corporations that make really nice, generous donations, but that only makes a dent in what we need to give. Most of our donations come from individuals.”

To donate toys at Carol School Supplies, call 718−380−4203 or visit the store at 179−28 Union Tpke. in Fresh Meadows. For more information about the city Toys for Tots program, visit www.toysfortotsnyc.org or call 718−338−9695.

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