Facing a drastic falloff in donations this year, the Philadelphia-area Toys for Tots campaign announced an "emergency toy rush" yesterday.

Contributions are down by nearly 20,000 toys compared with last year at this time, when about 40,000 toys had been collected, said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Putney, who leads the local effort for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

"This is not just happening in Philadelphia," he said.

Donations are down in other local communities - such as Camden, Willow Grove and Folsom - as well as nationwide, said Putney, who lives in Glassboro.

The recession and a late Thanksgiving may have played roles in the decline, but how much was unclear, he added.

He spoke in advance of a news conference detailing the "rush" initiative. It was held at The Inquirer and Daily News Building at Broad and Callowhill Streets.

Brian Tierney, CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings and publisher of The Inquirer, pledged the company's support and urged the public to contribute.

Surrounding the news conference podium were $5,000 worth of toys and games - new gifts on top of $4,500 in items already donated by the company.

In addition, PMH will provide $100,000 of free advertising in its newspapers and on its Web site, Philly.com, to promote Toys for Tots, as well as charitable campaigns for the Salvation Army by TV stations CBS3 and NBC10, and 6ABC's Holiday Food Drive.

"Wherever you want to give, just give," Tierney said. "That's what we're asking folks to do."

People can drop off toys "24/7" at The Inquirer building at 400 N. Broad St., or during business hours at many other locations.

To find a Philadelphia-area drop-off spot, go to www.toysfortotsphila.org, and click on "Donate Toys."

[UPDATE: The local drop-off list has seven pages. Be sure to click "Next" in the upper right to browse the entire list.]

For the national site, go to www.toysfortots.org and click on "Toy Drop-Offs."

Money can also be donated. An easy way to give $5 is to use your cell phone to text the word "TOY" to 90999, and $5 will be deducted from your phone bill, Tierney said.

Or donate with a check made payable to "Toys for Tots of Philadelphia" and mail it to Toys for Tots, 2838-98 Woodhaven Rd., Philadelphia, Pa., 19154.

Donations had already started picking up over the last week, Putney said.

A couple of thousand toys were collected at the Eagles home game against the Cleveland Browns, he estimated.

"They did a great job," he said.

Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by a Los Angeles-based Marine colonel, and it was expanded into a nation-wide program in 1948.

Last year, local campaigns distributed more than 19.2 million toys to 7.6 million needy children.