Toys for Tots is getting derailed. Amtrak will no longer provide its trains for Toys for Tots, a program that delivers Christmas gifts to underprivileged children every year. Amtrak said the charitable program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve doesn't fit with new policies about charter trains — leaving some local Toys for Tots chapters scrambling for a new way to spread holiday cheer.
"It's gonna make it more difficult," retired Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman Jr., the Toys for Tots coordinator in New York's Capital Region, told CBS News.
He noted that Toys for Tots serves children in "outskirts" who have little access to toy stores, and said he has "no idea" how it will make up for Amtrak's departure.
"We're gonna make it happen in one way, shape or form," he said. "It's just gonna be a little more creative, I guess."
Toys for Tots serves more than 700 communities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and has sent more than 530 million donated toys to over 244 million children, according to its website.
Roman said Amtrak's support in recent years made a "huge difference," making it easier to deliver huge holiday hauls. In the Capital Region alone, he said, Amtrak trains helped deliver up to 25,000 toys every year, as well as thousands of coats, blankets, mittens and stocking stuffers.
Amtrak said in a statement this week: "Consistent with Amtrak's mandate to provide efficient, safe, and effective intercity passenger rail transportation, Amtrak has established a new policy for the operation of charter trains."
"Amtrak's objective is to operate its core, scheduled train service safety, on time, and efficiently, and must therefore decline to operate this charter. Amtrak will continue to proudly support the Toys for Tots program through the collection of toys at participating stations," it said.
Amtrak did not immediately return messages from CBS News.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, which is headquartered in Triangle, Virginia, also did not immediately comment.
Amtrak's exit adds another complication for the toy drive this year following the closure of Toys R Us, which for years donated presents and money to Toys for Tots.
Roman said that, in his region, trucking companies and private organizations have expressed interest in taking Amtrak's place. But he holds out hope that Amtrak will change its mind while his chapter looks for new distributors.
"We just try our best to overcome our trials and tribulations," he said. "At the end of the day it's about the kids, and we can't lose focus on that."
Source: AP & CBS News / August 5, 2018