Several years ago, I built some toys in my workshop that I planned to give to Toys-for-Tots. However, when I took them to a collection site, Toys-for-Tots would not take them. They said the toys had to be bubble wrapped from a retailer. I gave the toys to a homeless shelter in Nampa, and they were happy to receive them.
Last December, I contacted the Toys-for Tots website and asked if it was still their policy to only receive retail toys. I received a reply from a Gunnery Sgt. Adamson in Quantico that it was vehemently not their policy and they would be happy to receive homemade toys.
I spent many months beginning in the spring of 2017 through late fall building the toys in the picture attached. I sent a photo to Gy Sgt. Adamson in October of 2017 and to a Sgt. Zeballos who represents Boise Toys-for-Tots.
Sgt. Zeballos made it clear to me that Marine Corps regulations do not allow them to accept toys that are not in retail packaging. They fear liability for distributing toys not inspected and approved by government regulators.
I was, of course, disappointed. I had built the toys with a lot of love. I used a wide variety of hard woods and soft woods and ensured that all toys were finished with food-safe coatings, so that no child would be in danger. I will admit, the toys are probably not meant for toddlers. They do have parts that could be broken off and swallowed, but I assumed parents were responsible enough to mind that possibility. However, no government agency has tested or inspected my toys for distribution.
There were several messages exchanged between both representatives and myself. The conclusion was that Sgt. Zeballos found no allowance for non-retail packaged toys. He offered to pick them up and attempt to find some other charity who might accept them.
I then read in the Kuna Melba News that Kuna Fire Department was doing a toy drive. I hauled the toys to them and let them know that Toys-for-Tots would not accept them. They were very encouraged and said they would find someone who would be happy to receive the toys.
A few days later, I received a call from Ross Elementary. The toys were distributed to the school and they called to thank me for the donation. I am happy to see the toys have a home right here in our neighborhood. The administrator who contacted me from Ross was very excited to see the toys get a good home.
The point of this story is that if you too are crafty and would like to help out kids who need to see gifts at this time of year, there is an outlet for toys that does not demand retail packaging.
The Kuna Fire Department is planning to make their toy drive an annual event, and I believe there will be tremendous support and many happy kids in the years to come.
Toys from ToysRUs are great and that is the job of Toys-for-Tots to distribute. I can understand the liability issue, though I know homemade, wooden toys typically are longer lasting and often more treasured than many of the made in Taiwan toys that are marketed.
I will likely build more toys for next year, and I encourage anyone else with desire to help local children to keep the Kuna Fire Department toy drive in mind for your crafts and homemade toys.