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VIA: AJC.com

With only three days before Christmas, the Marines’ annual “Toys for Tots” program is only halfway to its goal, and down over 30 percent from a year ago.

Gunnery Sgt. Edward Barrett told the AJC Tuesday that so far, they’ve counted 436,350 toys for metro Atlanta children to open at Christmas this year. The Corps had a goal of 900,000 for the 11-county metro Atlanta area.

Barrett’s hoping the drop doesn’t mean that some children who have been promised toys won’t get any, but already other Marine Corps at the warehouse in Marietta have had to make calls to local organizations to say orders have been cut in half.

“If it’s a very large order, like 5,000 toys, then we tell them we don’t have the toys to fill that,” Barrett told the AJC. “I’m not the one making those phone calls, but no one has come back to say people are complaining.”

Last year, Barrett’s first with the program, the Marines collected 710,502 toys. He said couldn’t put his finger on a specific reason for the drop.

“There’s probably 20 different factors,” Barrett said. “Different situations, political views, job status, whatever it may be.”

Wednesday is the last day people can drop off toys at the warehouse at 1280 Field Parkway in Marietta, Barrett said. He and eight other staffers are still counting and distributing the donations. Barrett, who worked 15 hours on Monday, and the others haven’t had a day off since Nov. 29.

There have been bright spots. Barrett said each of the 20 cars he helped unload came with not just one or two toys but with at least five or six bags of them.

“People probably spent a couple hundred dollars on toys,” he said. “Last year we didn’t have that. It just blew me away.”

And, as Barrett was on the telephone, a Publix truck full of toys pulled up to the Marietta warehouse. He estimated between 25,000 and 30,000 were in that delivery.

Now, they just have to be counted and distributed.

“When the toys are gone, we get to go home,” Barrett said.