One of the largest holiday toy drives in the Twin Cities kicks off Monday.

Toys for Tots, a Marine Corps program, will attempt to surpass last year's feat of distributing about 218,000 toys, books and stocking stuffers to more than 157,000 children for Christmas.

The program collects new and unwrapped toys, such as games, action figures, dolls, puzzles and anything for babies and toddlers. Homemade toys are accepted if they have no sharp edges or small parts that could cause choking.

Toys for Tots doesn't accept food, clothes, used toys or liquid products such as perfumes, lotions and body wash.

Marines on active duty and reserve status at Fort Snelling coordinate the annual metro toy drive, which will continue through Dec. 20. Toys are distributed through participating agencies.

Toys for Tots in recent years has felt the sting of a slow economy as contributions declined and demand grew. Other toy charity drives in the Twin Cities have reported experiencing the same challenge.

The Marines -- assisted by a large force of veterans and other volunteers -- will begin accepting donations Monday at the toy warehouse at 2633 Minnehaha Av. in south Minneapolis. Several businesses and other organizations also provide toy dropoffs, and Marines appear at special events in their dress blues to promote Toys for Tots.

Since Toys for Tots became a nationwide program in 1948, Marines have distributed more than 452 million toys to more than 209 million needy children.

Marines appear at toy drives, company parties and other gatherings by request. They are not allowed at private residences. To inquire, send an e-mail to Staff Sgt. Malek Neman at toysfortotstwincities-

For further information concerning where to drop off toys, how to request them and who to contact, see the Toys for Tots website at