Every year about this time, when the Toys for Kids applications are at a new high and the donations seem to be a little slow, Wanda Thacker Martin wants to hit the panic button.

    But a deep breath and a fresh dose of hope makes her wait. And every year, things seem to miraculously work out.

    This year, though, is the toughest yet.

    “We need everything,” Martin said. “We’re short, way short. We need toys for every age. We need money. We always need money.”

    As of Saturday, Martin said 1,530 children were on the list.

    “It’s about 300 more children than we’ve ever had. We have 640 families, which is almost a hundred more than we had last year,” Martin said.

    “Time and again the people of this community have come through, and we’ve taken care of the kids and the families, and I’ve got to believe it’s going to happen this year too.”

    Martin said that despite the fact the family had tried to have a cutoff deadline for applications, therefore giving family members and volunteers more time to get the toys collected and set up, late applications had continued to come in.

    “We had more than 500 families apply by the Dec. 5 deadline and at least a hundred since,” Martin said. “What our mission is is to see that children in this county have toys for Christmas, regardless of what their circumstances are. So, we haven’t been turning anyone away.”

    But Martin said, the pressure is on to fill the shelves with toys – and to do so by next Saturday, which is the “shopping” day when parents will come to the warehouse and select their children’s toys.

    “Really, I don’t know if we’ve ever been this low on inventory this close to the shopping date. I’m not going to panic yet, but maybe I should,” she said.

    Donations will be accepted at the Toys for Kids headquarters by Grand Starz, 2323 Belle Plain, as well as at any of the local Sonic Drive-Ins, Citizens National Bank, Brownwood Fire Station 1 and numerous other local retailers. Or, Martin said, she and other volunteers could arrange to pick up donations if necessary. To make those arrangements, call (325) 203-6053.

    Monetary donations can be sent by mail to Toys for Kids; P.O. Box 912; Brownwood, TX 76804.

    “Any amount, any donation is welcome,” Martin said. “We’ll take them up to and through next Saturday, but of course the sooner we can collect, the better prepared we will be.

    “This community’s always come through, and I know the will this year – it’s for the children.”