The lobby of Philadelphia Media Holdings on North Broad Street looked like a toy store - a big toy store - or maybe even Santa's workshop. It was crammed with thousands of toys.

After the company, which owns the Daily News, Inquirer and Philly.com, offered to help the Marines with their faltering Toys for Tots campaign last week, amazing things happened.

"There was a family - mom and pop and three kids - who came in with toys," said Brian Tierney, chief executive officer of Media Holdings. "They went out to do more shopping and came back to the lobby with even more toys."

The result of this overwhelming outburst of generosity was that the company collected 30,000 toys in seven days.

They were in addition to the 20,000 toys that the Marines had already collected when they turned to Media Holdings for help. The goal was 50,000 toys and the drive was falling far short of that.

"We told them we'd like to help," Tierney said. "We asked what we could do."

The answer was quick in coming. The company brought in Marine Gunnery Sgt. Robert Putney, who is running the Toys for Tots program, and made an announcement. The company would run stories about what was needed and how the public could chip in. Media Holdings donated about $100,000 worth of ads, and added a $5,000 donation to the $5,000 it had already given.

The buildings at Broad and Callowhill streets and the Schuylkill Printing Plant in Conshohocken took donations day and night.

"I was so pleased and proud of the results," Tierney said. "It shows a couple of things. First of all, the large audience these papers reach, with 1.2 million people picking them up every day.

"And it shows how generous our readers are. Even with the soft economy, when people find out that a little girl and a little boy need help, they step up." *