Toy fears may crimp charity
|StoryChat: Comment on this story|
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer
By Treena Shapiro
In a year in which more than 10 million toys made in China have been recalled, charities are bracing for a drop in holiday toy donations and preparing to scrutinize every one they do receive.
That's assuming they're accepting toys at all.
Goodwill Industries of Hawai'i, which operates a half-dozen thrift stores on O'ahu, stopped accepting all toys except stuffed animals in August and will not be changing its policy before the end of the year.
Across the nation, retailers expect a drop in sales after high-profile recalls of popular Chinese-made toys, including certain Barbie, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and Thomas & Friends toys. Charities, meanwhile, wonder whether donors will hold off on giving toys because of safety concerns.
The cheery news is that Toys for Tots, which distributed 50,000 toys to needy Hawai'i children last year, is on track to boost its collection by another 10,000 this year.
Staff Sgt. Jens Olsen, who heads up O'ahu's Toys for Tots campaign for the Marine Corps Reserve, said his charity is counting on stores to pull recalled items off the shelves and for donors to double-check their gifts to make sure they aren't on the recall list.
"So far, I don't think it's been an issue," he said. "We've only had a handful of events, but we already have over 2,000 toys, and that's pretty good."
Since the toys are only accepted new, packaged and unwrapped, they're easier to check against the recall list, and volunteers will be doing that as they sort toys by age and gender.
However, the Salvation Army, which distributes thousands of toys through its Angel Tree program and Toys for Tots, is more worried.
"This is really the kind of a season to give away toys and all that, but unfortunately, this toy-recall business really puts a damper on the holiday season," said Daniel de Castro, director of public relations for the Salvation Army in Hawai'i.
The recalls might make it harder to fulfill the Angel Tree requests from children this year. "If this wish is part of the recall list, we just make an alternative plan and give another toy to the child," de Castro said.
The bigger effort will be at the thrift stores, where donations usually don't come in packaged or labeled, and people are cleaning out their toy boxes to make room for new toys or to get tax write-offs before the year ends.
"We have used toys coming from all directions. We're getting hundreds of them," de Castro said. "One or two will probably slip through, but we're doing our best effort to make sure the recalled toys are out of circulation."
Since donated toys now need to be checked against the recall list, the charity is even more in need of volunteers than usual. "It's a humongous effort," de Castro said.
The Savers thrift stores, which raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawai'i, also are trying to make sure that no recalled toys end up on shelves, but they're counting on donors and customers to check, too.
"They have to be mindful because there's always a chance of human error," said Anita Carey, manager of the Dillingham Store.
The national company has an online service that automatically notifies stores of recalls, and the stores put laminated color copies of all the notices on their bulletin board.
"The people who do the toys are trained, but our company recognizes that we're all only human and humans are fallible," she said.
However, the store hasn't received recalled toys anyway. "So far, I see that people are being very good about it," Carey said.
Reach Treena Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the editor: StoryChat was designed to promote and encourage healthy comment and debate. We encourage you to respect the views of others and refrain from personal attacks or using obscenities.
By clicking on "Post Comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.