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Camden Rescue Mission 1,800 toys short for Christmas toy drive

With two days left until Camden Rescue Mission's toy drive, the charity is short 1,800 toys to be able to hand 6,000 children one toy on Christmas Eve. Organizers say middle-class families from the suburbs who were the usual donors are now on the list to be recipients.

Suburban and middle-income people are the new poor in South Jersey and it is having a negative impact on this year's toy drive for needy children, according to Rev. Al Stewart, of the Camden Rescue Mission.

Camden Rescue Mission, a nonprofit charity that helps South Jersey residents in need, will host its 23rd annual Christmas Party for needy children on Saturday. But with two days left, the organization is still 1,800 short.

"We're seeing a lot more of what I would call middle-income people," Stewart told me this morning. "It's kind of unusual to see suburban people and middle-income people ... those are the new poor."

Suburbanites have been coming in to the Camden site in recent weeks to sign up for their children to receive toys, not to donate toys, as was the case a few years ago, Stewart said.

"It's the people we have come to depend on," he said. "When they struggle, we struggle."

A lot of South Jersey residents have lost their jobs and can't afford to buy their children Christmas presents. Some can hardly afford food.

Since last week, Camden Rescue Mission has given out 65 emergency baskets to families coming in to sign up for the toy drive.

"They are saying 'we're hungry today,'" Stewart said, adding that his mission is to not turn anyone away. So far 6,000 children have been signed up to receive toys.

People can still donate new unwrapped toys or gift-cards for boys and girls ages 1 to 12. Items can be dropped off at Camden Rescue Mission, 1634 Broadway in Camden or at Frank Italiano's home at 825 Mercer St. in Cherry Hill.

Donations can also be made through the mission's website.

The party will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Camden Rescue Mission. Stewart says they will keep their doors open until the last child is served.