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A Toy Drive's Dual Lessons

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Monday, April 13, 2009

The New Jersey Children's Museum in Paramus is in the midst of a second drive to collect toys for needy kids while at the same time teaching children the value of recycling.
As of Sunday, the museum had received a couple dozen donations as part of its collaboration with Second Chance Toys, a Mountainside charity that collects used plastic items and redistributes them to families who can't afford to buy toys.
"It teaches children to understand what recycling is, how they can help the environment while helping other children," said Josephine DaCosta, the museum's assistant manager. She added that the museum put on its first Second Chance Toys drive last April, when the staff decided they needed an environmental project to coincide with Earth Day.
"We collected about 250 toys last April," DaCosta said. That effort was so successful, she added, that the museum put on another drive around Thanksgiving – taking in 350 more.
The current collection campaign runs through this month but will be a major focus this weekend, which is just before Earth Day on April 22.
"We're having a recycling weekend next weekend, where we'll be teaching children how to take part in recycling," DaCosta said. "We're also going to be doing crafts using recycled materials and we'll have special music programs."
The museum is accepting plastic toys suitable for children up to age 6. "They must be of substantial size — no small pieces — and they have to be working. If they need batteries, they have to have batteries," DaCosta said. "We clean them up and disinfect them."
Anyone who brings a suitable toy to the museum receives a coupon for a free return visit.
Second Chance Toys, which was created three years ago by Sasha Lipton, then a Mountainside high school student who now attends Northwestern University, distributes the toys to local non-profits. DaCosta said this year's recipient organizations haven't been selected yet. Last year, she said, the toys were sent to Concerned Parents for Head Start in Paterson and the Bergenfield Head Start program.


Josephine DaCosta of the New Jersey Children's Museum in Paramus with donated toys. The museum's collection drive corresponds with Earth Day, which falls on April 22.

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