Image: Volunteers dressed as Santa Claus
Brendan McDermid  /  Reuters
Volunteers dressed as Santa Claus are pictured at Times Square in New York on Friday.
updated 11/29/2009 11:27:47 AM ET 2009-11-29T16:27:47

The economy has taken a toll on a New York tradition: the "Sidewalk Santas" who collected money for the poor on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

The 107-year-old program has gone online for the second year in a row.

The nonprofit Volunteers of America-Greater New York says it doesn't have the money to manage and pay formerly homeless men to play Santa, ring bells and gather donations. Spokeswoman Rachel Weinstein said Saturday that many are elderly and in fragile health.

The Sidewalk Santas formerly set up chimney-like donation boxes in front of some of the city's most expensive stores for a month before Christmas.

Online contributions to Sidewalk Santa will still buy food vouchers for people who can't afford holiday meals.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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