Friday, one of the larger holiday fundraisers, “Toys for Tots” by the U.S. Marine Corps began. However, there are growing concerns the toys being collected this year are safe. With numerous toys testing positive for lead paint and other types of hazards, many local toy drives are left picking up the pieces.
Currently, there are 384 different toy recalls to date this year. October contained the most recalls with 73 and many big brand names have been affected including “Fisher-Price”, “Hasbro”, and “Thomas and Friends”.
“We've been fortunate, we haven't had to add staff or anything like that,” says Pat Drake, public relations coordinator for Volunteers of America on Lake Avenue in Rochester.
Even though Volunteers of America's toys make up only a small portion of its donated goods, the company keeps a comprehensive recall list on hand.
“In every store when donations come in, we check donations against what the recalled list is, to make sure that we aren't putting anything on the shelves that has been recalled,” says Drake, ”and everyday these are updated, people go online and they check them and they distribute them to our stores and warehouse operation.”
Companies such as “Babies R Us” in Henrietta have even hired private firms this season to further check their current toys. The company, called “Bureau Veritas”, is making sure that the toys are not only lead-safe but also free of other hazards.
You can find out more about the company’s safety precautions by visiting: www.Babiesrus.com/safety
However, this year’s giant toy recall has not been as kind to people such as Gary Smith. Also known as "Gary the Happy Pirate", his “Pirate Toy Fund” donates toys to children year round. Last year, the “Pirate Toy Fund” gave more than 20,000 toys to children across Monroe County.
“It's been a unique challenge, let's put it that way,” says Smith, ”I think that's the thing that concerns me the most, as much as we've contacted our programs, you're concerned that these were popular toys, they were under demand so programs were asking for them, and we were getting them out there so...they're in the public's hand.”
Smith immediately contacted all of the City of Rochester and Monroe County programs which benefit from his toy fund and he has received several return shipments, however, he is taking one more precaution this holiday season.
“What we're working on right now is to have a lead testing analyzer to be able to check some of these toys and make sure they're safe.”
If you want to donate toys to any local or national toy drive this holiday season keep the following things in mind:
1.) Check whether the toy you are donating has been recalled or has any safety hazards. You can find out information by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at: www.cpsc.gov
2.) You can donate other kinds of toys such as board games and sports gear such as Nerf footballs.
3.) Large organizations such as “Toys for Tots” will accept monetary donations in lieu of toys. The Marine Corps will then purchase safe toys for children on your behalf.
4.) If you are donating “gently used” toys to organizations such as “Volunteers of America”, sort and dispose of any hazardous or recalled toys before making your final donation.