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It's That Time of Year! Holiday Collections Are Open-- Plus Tips on Collecting

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means it's toy collecting season! Information and the sign-up can be found here. Below, we've got some wonderful tips from a seasoned toy collector on just how to go about it--and more importantly, just how easy it can be!

Be sure to share your toy collection photos and updates along the way by using the hastags #toysforgood and #secondchancetoys on social media. We'll see you out there!

My Experience Running Second Chance Toys Collections – If I can do it, so can you…

Last year I organized three collections for Second Chance Toys. They were three different experiences not only in terms of different tactics and timing, but also location – one was at a school during the winter holiday season, one at a community center on Earth Day, and one in a corporate office.

In spite of those differences, all three collections went well. And in all three cases, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this was to do; a relatively small effort generated an outsized return in terms of educating children, keeping plastics out of landfills, and giving back to local communities.

The following are some quick tips I’ve taken away from my experience organizing SCT collections. I hope these help those of you who are already planning to run collections this year – and I hope they encourage those of you who are intrigued by SCT but might be thinking, “I don’t have time to do this myself. I wish someone else would organize one in my community.” If I can do it, so can you

(A quick point of context – I am a mother of three young children, and I work full-time in a corporate management position. Thus, my emphasis on keeping this simple. You too can do it, really!).

Don’t overthink it, and don’t be daunted by the task

Running an SCT collection does not take months of planning, nor a committee of volunteers. In fact, two of my collections were organized with just a few weeks of lead time. Sure, it would be better to have a little more time to publicize an event, and in some cases (see point #2 below) you’ll need to get school permissions much earlier, but the point is that it can be done with whatever time and resources you have available.

Take advantage of the kits that SCT makes available – they have flyers, e-mail messages, and toy tags already crafted. They can also help to line up the recipient organization and trucking/logistics. They also provide instructions for how to run an event and which supplies to bring (As far as supplies go, I believe I boiled it down to large garbage bags and wipes. Again, pretty simple!).

Ping the PTA, School Director, or Facilities Director early

They get a ton of requests for events at the school, so even if your PTA or school administrators think it’s a great idea, they may have to say “no” if the schedule is already full for the upcoming year. On the other hand, don’t stop if they say “no.” You can run a collection with or without them.

For one of my collections, I was fortunate to get the school’s director onboard as a very enthusiastic champion (despite the fact that I contacted her just one month before the holiday collection event!). She really took over from there, organizing the space, bringing supplies, and publicizing the event.  

In contrast, at my other event, the school/PTA had to say “no.” So I quickly shifted gears, and set up the collection at a nearby community center (it took just one e-mail to someone in the community to get permission). We did that event before school on the morning of Earth Day with coffee, hot chocolate and donuts as a treat for the attending parents and children. It was a fun gathering, and a novelty for the kids to see one another before school.

P.S. It helps to have a playground next to your collection area!

Recruit your friends, make it personal

In addition to publicizing your collection event via mass e-mail lists and flyers posted in prominent community areas, lock-in some participation by recruiting your children’s friends and their parents or some of your co-workers – I sent quick personalized notes that did the trick.   

Unlike other fundraisers, this is a pretty comfortable ask; after all, you’re not asking anyone to shell out money or buy your kid’s cookies (I’ve always felt uncomfortable obligating friends and co-workers to participate in those fundraisers). But in this case, you’re simply asking them to donate items they no longer use or need; in fact, they may even thank you for giving them impetus to finally de-clutter that old playroom.

Follow the truck if you can

At the end of my first collection event, I decided to follow the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? truck to the site of the organization that would be receiving our donated toys. And boy was I glad I did! It’s one thing to know that you’re donating to children in need. It’s another to see it first-hand. I was moved, to say the least. It gave me pause in what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill day, consumed by frivolous work issues and artificial stressors. I was blown away by the Director of the Mission, who invited me in for a tour and showed me around with deep pride and with a humbling story about how he worked his way from homelessness to holding the keys to this great facility. He assured me that our toys would be greatly appreciated by the families and children who depend on the mission.

I first came across Second Chance Toys about one year ago, by chance, as I was searching online for something else. I loved the premise of SCT from the moment I read about it.

Over the years, with each passing birthday and holiday season, I’ve watched as my children unwrap far too many toys -- and while I appreciate the generosity of our friends and family, I also cringe at the piles of plastic parts accumulating in my home; toys thrown astray after their fun has worn off.

I know these toys have a longer life to live, and Second Chance Toys is an opportunity to take action; we can all reduce environmental impacts while also bringing the joy of toys to children in need. 

-Sherry Marin Altman, SCT Volunteer