Charities wary of donated toys in wake of recalls

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2007

As millions of toys have been recalled this year, charities across the country are either refusing toy donations or devoting more man-hours to inspection before approving the items for distribution.

From “Go Diego Go!” Animal Rescue Boats imported by Fisher Price to Polly Pocket dolls with magnets from Mattel Inc., parents have scoured their children’s play things to weed out those that are lead tainted or otherwise hazardous.

Parents are being reminded that disposing of the toys doesn’t mean dropping them off at a local charity.

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“We are also asking for help from donors, parents and shoppers to avoid donating recalled products to our Thrift and Family stores and other programs,” Salvation Army national spokeswoman Melissa Temme said in a statement.

Temme said the Salvation Army still accepts toy donations, but the policy is that a thrift store must be able to ensure the safety of the toys. If it can’t, the toys shouldn’t be sold. Temme said about 150 Salvation Army Thrift Stores in the South have stopped accepting toy donations.

Temme said the Salvation Army is seeking additional volunteers to help sort toys and alerting social service clients about the recalls.

The U.S. Marines are doing double-duty inspecting merchandise for their annual Toys for Tots drive, said 1st Sgt. Karl McCants in Jackson. McCants said every toy received will be screened.

Goodwill Industries International doesn’t have a national policy regarding toy donations and sales, said spokeswoman Christine Nyirjesy Bragale. She said each Goodwill organization sets its own policy, but so far those in Honolulu; Boston; Springfield, Mass.; and Denver have stopped accepting toy donations because of the recall.

At Goodwill stores, which sell donated items to fund job training programs, all toys are inspected against recall lists, said Bragale.

“I have heard of a couple of Goodwill stores saying they have a lot of Mattel recalled toys, but so far not many,” she said. “People need to know that for Goodwill, dealing with recall products has always been part of our business process.”

Goodwill Industries of Mississippi president Darby Sowell said the six stores operating in his jurisdiction are still accepting toys. Sowell said there’s no rigorous inspections of the toys, and he isn’t worried about the recalls because most of the toys are secondhand.

“They’re the old toys that the boys and girls have been using. They don’t fit into that group that has been recalled,” Sowell said. “If we knew about it, we would not accept it or sell it. With all the masses that come in, it would be difficult for us to tell where these have come from.”

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