Take our toys, please
December 23, 2008 7:28 AM   Subscribe

My school-aged children received some money for the holidays and decided to buy toys for needy kids instead of spending it on themselves. I took them shopping yesterday and, all told, they've got about $300 in toys to donate in addition to what I'm also kicking in. Now, what are we going to do with this stuff?

I know there are several Toys For Tots drop-off points in my area, but I wanted my kids to have a more meaningful hand-off than just dropping stuff into a cardboard box at the local tire shop. I know my kids would love to meet a real, live Marine so I tried arranging to drop off the donations at a local recruiting center. I talked to people at various levels within the Toys For Tots organization -- including a call to the USMC public affairs department in Quantico -- and got nowhere (apparently I can't just show up at a recruiting office and assume anyone will be there).

Now I'm looking for a new organization where we can donate a boatload of new, unwrapped toys. I want to know that what we give will actually get into the hands of local kids but I'm at a loss for who to contact. I don't want to just dump them at the door of a church, the local YMCA, or any other faceless group without at least a modicum of certainty that the toys will go where they should.

I also want my kids to come away with a sense of pride about what they've done, instead of just giving them to an overworked volunteer who mumbles "thanks" over her shoulder as she walks off with the goods.

I considered just showing up at the Salvation Army as they serve Christmas dinner and just handing out wrapped gifts but I'd be mortified if we ran out right as Little Susie got a doll while her brother left empty-handed.

Who knew giving away a bunch of new toys would be so complicated?
posted by _Mona_ to Human Relations (11 answers total)
I know in Canada, the firefighters often run a toy drive, and fire stations are the place that takes in the toys - if that's also the case where you are, then I highly recommend doing that. Meeting a real live firefighter is also damn cool. I know that Toronto accepts toys up until Christmas Eve, toys go to kids in shelters / hospitals.

If not - where do you live? We might be able to do more hunting with a bit more info. You might have to wait until after Christmas to get the welcoming committee for the kids, everyone's a little busy right now.

Also, your kids are quality human beings.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:37 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

charmcityblues: Please read the post, _Mona_ specifically said that a ToT drop-off isn't what they want.

Seconding fire houses, if there are any doing toy drives... you could try children's hospitals (a la Child's Play) but I suspect it'd be hard to arrange a dropoff experience that'd have the effect you want.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:48 AM on December 23, 2008

Your kids are awesome. Our office donates unwrapped toys to a local women's shelter (which houses mothers and their children) every year. Maybe do a search for a local shelter that does similar work? Note: We donated everything last week, as the shelter had a deadline for donations. So I wouldn't hesitate to call...
posted by chowflap at 7:53 AM on December 23, 2008

First off: your kids are awesome! What a lovely and generous thing to do. My hat's off to you for your obviously fantastic parenting.

I worked with foster children in the past and can say with certainty that any foster agency in your town would certainly appreciate the gifts. Some agencies will let your children give their gifts personally (we used to even throw a little potluck party after the holidays to say "Thank You" to the families in our community who donated/volunteered).

Another option might be to visit children who are in the hospital and personally donate the gifts there if you're allowed. Someone did that for my brother once when he was young and he never forgot it.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:01 AM on December 23, 2008

Response by poster: Excellent suggestions so far, thanks!

I want to mention that I don't care much about my kids getting a confetti parade for what they're doing. If the hand-off happens in a memorable way, that would be great. It's not a requirement, though, because I want them to remember that this isn't about them (of course, I'm making sure my family knows so they can rave over the kids along with me).

Oh, and I'm in the Tampa, Florida area.
posted by _Mona_ at 8:02 AM on December 23, 2008

Toys for Tots does everything months in advance. They stop taking donations and enrolling programs to receive toys over the summer, so anything you donated today wouldn't be used until next year, anyway. Just an FYI.
posted by The Straightener at 8:15 AM on December 23, 2008

Amen Outreach Ministry, Shelter for Women & Children
PO Box 4472
Tampa , FL 33677
813 374-2196
We provide emergency housing and support for up to 24 women and children in Hillsborough County. We are one of the only homeless shelter for women and children who are not victims of domestic violence in the county. In addition to providing shelter, housing information and referrals, assistance in obtaining transitional/permanent housing, job search. Residents are permitted to stay at the shelter for 60 days or more if the resident is actively working towards their self-sufficiency.

How about giving them a call and seeing if they could distribute it to the kids currently staying there?

awesome kids, by the way. I'm super-proud.
posted by agentwills at 8:18 AM on December 23, 2008

Try a youth shelter or i like the women's shelter idea or your states department of human services. The DHS may be able to point you to a needy family. Or child protective services. Or call your childrens schools and ask for kids who need help. Or call your church if you have one or any church and ask for a family name.

What a great idea.
posted by domino at 8:19 AM on December 23, 2008

Try this site: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/admin/dcfcontacts.shtml. You can find a Florida children and families office near you to call. These offices usually have a long list of families you can "adopt" for the holidays. You can then drop off the toys directly to the family/families if you want or take them to the office if you don't want to drop off directly to the family yourselves.
posted by maelanchai at 8:26 AM on December 23, 2008

Definitely donate to a shelter. Having been a volunteer, I've seen firsthand that they can always use fresh toys. Besides the impersonal nature of Toys for Tots, the toys are occasionally returned by the recipients for cash/store credit. I once overheard three women talking about their annual Toys For Tots windfall while standing behind them in the Target returns line.

This doesn't mean that everyone exploits Toys for Tots, but if the toys are put into general use at a shelter you KNOW they're well-appreciated.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2008

Our local Ronald McDonald House does a toy/Christmas gift collection. I don't know what kind of deadlines or anything they have, though.
posted by dilettante at 3:21 PM on December 23, 2008

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