Holiday toy donations affected by toy recalls

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Millions of toys have been recalled this year – many of them because they contained high levels of lead. With the holiday gift-giving season in full swing many people are worried which toys are safe to give children. But the concern does not stop there. This year many charitable organizations implemented new procedures to ensure their toy donations are not harmful.

Small sacks of toys are placed in larger black garbage bags for this mom picking up toys for her kids. Her children are in the car and she wants to keep them under suspense until Christmas.

More than 10,000 Franklin County children are expected to get presents from Firefighters 4 Kids this year. And volunteers at charitable organizations like this one have more on their minds than just demand. They’re trying to make sure the toys they’re giving are safe. That’s because stores have pulled from shelves millions of toys. Some had high levels of lead paint, others were a choking hazard. Mike Mullins is a retired firefighter and works with Firefighters 4 Kids. He said volunteers checking the toys have already sent back dozens to the manufacturer.

“I’m not even sure it was all recalled items, but if there was any doubt about it, if it was on the, for example, Polly Pockets was a big item. So anything that we saw that said Polly Pockets whether it ended up being a recall or not we just didn’t use it,” Mullins said.

Precautions like this are new to many groups. Franklin County Children’s Services’ Megan Stevens directs the agency’s program to give toys to children in its care. Stevens said the massive recalls have changed the way Children’s Services monitors its toy intake.

“It certainly has changed this year because certainly we have gotten so many more recalls and it’s getting closer to the holiday season and it’s something that’s really on our mind. I can’t say that every day last year we checked the website to see what the recalls were, and it’s something that we conscientiously do every single day this year,” Stevens said.

Last year volunteers were not responsible for checking toy recall lists, but Stevens said this year they are. So far, she said Children’s Services has been lucky.

“At this point in time we’ve had no toys actually brought to the holiday wish center that have been recalled,” Stevens said.

The Salvation Army has not been as lucky. Alice Hohl said the group had to reject a large donation of toys. In November, Hohl said the Salvation Army tested truckloads of toys it already had, and a lot of them tested positive for lead.

“Two-hundred-twelve of those 222 toys were the same thing. They were things that we had multiples of, a type of toy truck,” Hohl said.

Hohl said since the November testing the Salvation Army devised a plan for incoming toys. She said each volunteer is armed with a recall list. If a donated toy is on the list, it’s put aside.

Firefighters 4 Kids is trying to get parents involved. Mullins said the toys go to parents unwrapped. He said that practice used to be in place so parents could make the decision to wrap the gift. But Mullins said it now serves as a final check for a recall.

“They’re physically looking at it also. So, we try to make as many stops in there as we can to try to ensure that this doesn’t get out,” Mullins said.

Mullins said if a parent comes across a toy that is recalled they can return it for another.