Claiming it has changed its policies on charter trains, taxpayer funded Amtrak has ceased its operations with the Marines’ Toys for Tots program and will no longer ship the charity’s freight.
It is a blow to the charitable program that helps bring toys, food, and clothing to millions of needy families every Christmas.
“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.
The communter rail line insisted that the sudden withdrawal from the charity is part of a new policy to tighten service and cut costs.
“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 train,” the rail line said in a statement.
“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,” the service added.
Amtrak’s announcement is a second major bow to the charity after national toy chain Toys R Us went out of business.
Gunnery Sgt. Roman vowed that the U.S. Marine Reserves will continue the program despite the setbacks by added, “We just try our best to overcome our trials and tribulations. At the end of the day it’s about the kids, and we can’t lose focus on that.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.