The demand for toys for children in need in Wichita has spiked this Christmas — so much so that Toys for Tots is able to give kids only one toy each instead of the two they received last year, and the Salvation Army is reporting "a huge deficit" in the toys it needs.
"The donations are good, it's just that our need has doubled this year, and that has caused quite a problem," Marine Staff Sgt. Nathanael Ruble, coordinator for Toys for Tots in Wichita, said Wednesday as he used cash donations to buy more toys — specifically, items for girls age 6 and older.
The Salvation Army is reporting a 30 percent increase in the demand for toys, and Catholic Charities is asking for more toys this week as well.
"This year we're having difficulty in getting toys donated," said Brenda Keeler of the Catholic Charities Christmas Sharing program, which will distribute them Friday and Saturday.
Craig Plank of the Salvation Army said Wednesday that the demand for toys from its Angel Trees caught the charity off-guard. Answers to children's requests on the Angel Trees at Towne East and Towne West need to be received by Tuesday for distribution Dec. 16.
"We were expecting an increase," Plank said, "but not the size of the increase. We helped 8,600 children last year, and this year it's 11,100. ... We're just seeing the result of a bad economy."
And toys aren't the only items needed this week as major charities begin distributing goods to the people who have requested help this holiday season.
Operation Holiday still needs coats and food.
"We're pretty steady with the level of need, but our donations are definitely down," said LaVeta Noble of Operation Holiday, which is sponsored by Inter-Faith Ministries.
Distribution there starts today and continues through Saturday. "We still have a need for peanut butter, canned fruit and cereal, and coats," Noble said. Operation Holiday is accepting donations at the old Sears store in Twin Lakes Shopping Center, 1801 W. 21st St.
The Salvation Army is helping 4,000 families this Christmas; Operation Holiday, 14,000 people; and Catholic Charities' Christmas Sharing program, 303 families, including 800 children. Toys for Tots provides toys for Operation Holiday and for many smaller charities. The requests from those smaller charities have doubled the demand on Toys for Tots this year, Ruble said.
Toys for Tots has donation boxes at all Walmart stores in Wichita, Derby and Maize, and in most Dollar General and Family Dollar stores, Ruble said. Toys for boys and girls ages 6 and older especially are needed, he said. The charity also accepts cash contributions.
The Salvation Army needs more volunteers to help distribute goods to its 4,000 families Dec. 16.
"We'll have all those families through here in one very long day. In order to serve them we need 700 to 1,000" volunteers, Plank said. People also are needed to help sort through donations in the next week. Sign up at ringbells.org or call 316-263-2769, ext. 135.