Expanding List of Recalled Toys Plagues Toy Drives, Charities

So many toys, so many problems. Nonprofit organizations are seeking contributions for toy drives, but some of the country’s leading charities are taking extra precautions to make sure that an expanding list of recalled toys doesn’t turn into tainted donations.Recalls are nothing new to the Salvation Army, explains national spokeswoman Melissa Temme, but the sheer number of recalled toys this year has made giving a difficult and time-consuming process.

“This is the first time we’ve really grappled with something to this extent in this short period of time,” says Temme. “It hasn’t been 30 pages of toys with eight pictures for each page, like the list this year. It’s been maybe one or two toys.”

The Salvation Army and other charities are finding new ways to filter donations after companies started recalling Chinese-made toys for high levels of lead paint in August. The federal U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a new alert last Thursday, Dec. 13, recalling approximately 300,000 toys due to excessive levels of lead.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Temme says. The Salvation Army has a new policy that requires toy drives and thrift stores affiliated with the charity to sort through toys or stop accepting them. The organization even takes its filtering process a step further by passing out toy recall information to parents and family members picking up the toys.

“The parents are made aware of the recall and then are asked to look through a list of pictures to make sure the toy they have is not something that we missed on the recall list,” Temme says.

Catholic Charities, an organization that provides services to families throughout Colorado, is also sorting through piles of toys before they find a home.

“Any toys that are donated to us, we are obligated to asking our staff to check the toys to make sure they are not on the recall list,” says Randy Weinert, spokesman for Catholic Charities. “We’re just trying to be protective of the kids and families and check out the toys before they’re distributed.”

Weinert says he hasn’t yet heard of any cases of recalled toys being discovered by his organization, but that it is the first time the charity has had to meticulously sort through donations.

According to Temme, some Salvation Army locations have found a significant amount of toys, while others haven’t found any. State-by-state information was not available, but Temme did say the majority of problems are found with older toys sometimes left over from last Christmas.

When toys are found, they are promptly returned to the manufacturer, as they are technically hazardous waste that shouldn’t be thrown away normally.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, another national charity, is also reported to be sorting through toys this year.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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