Sunday, November 30, 2008

Starting Your Own Toy Drive This Christmas

People tend to be more generous around the holidays. The easiest way to give this holiday season is to volunteer with a recognized group, such as Toys for Tots, Angel Tree or other local groups such as the fire department or hospital. By volunteering to help with these toy drives, you can help cut down on their workload and help someone in need at the same time.

If there are no local organizations that have a toy drive, you can start a new one. Begin by checking with the local city hall to see if there are any regulations as to how and where you may collect toys. Some towns may allow door-to-door collections; others may require a designated drop off location.

Once the decision has been made, decide if you want to do an all-new toy drive or new to gently used. Both can be successful but it needs to be clear what you are collecting. Either way, it is best to have the gifts that are donated left unwrapped so that the volunteers can screen the gifts and get them sent to a child that matches by age and gender. Be sure to check all toys for broken or missing pieces. It's also a good idea to check them against any recall notices.

Research stores in the area that may donate either toys or cash toward the drive. Some may even allow you to have their location as a drop off point. Don't limit your choices to toy stores. Check with the grocery or hardware stores. Check with the local library. It might surprise you which businesses are more than willing to help. Talk to the various churches in town. Many of them may already do a small-scale toy drive. If you combine resources everyone will be able to give more to those who are less fortunate during the holiday season.

Start getting volunteers to sign up in early November. This way people have time to plan and adjust his or her own holiday celebrations. Start advertising the toy drive by Thanksgiving. Contact the newspaper, radio and TV stations to see if you can get free ad space or airtime as a public service announcement. Set up dates to wrap and distribute the toys. Try to have the distribution as close to Christmas as possible, maybe even Christmas Eve.

Be sure to also thank all those who helped publicly. Again, have the media thank the community and businesses that assisted in the drive. Thank all the volunteers, maybe even with a small token, even if it's just cookies and hot chocolate for them after the work is all done.

Here is a link to the USA Recall Notices:

and the Canadian equivalent:

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