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Jamie Brown from Omaha, Nebraska, along with other members of the Omaha Atheists Group, volunteered to collect gently used plastic toys for the holidays -- little did they know, they would all end up doing much more.

The assigned recipient organization for their donation happened to be Nebraska’s largest homeless shelter. The shelter provides food, emergency shelter and clothing, along with outreach/case management to homeless families and individuals.

Some of the volunteers working with Jamie did not have access to gently used plastic toys but still wanted to make a difference. Jamie found a list of needs on the organization’s website and decided to take her volunteer initiative one step further.

All of the members came together and donated some fantastic gently used plastic toys. Along with the toy donations, they donated books, clothing, and other items like trash bags, blankets, pillows… even coffee mugs.

The total donation filled 3 cars to the brim and they had an extremely rewarding experience.

Thank you Jamie, and your entire crew. You have made a huge difference in your community. 

This holiday season Second Chance Toys conducted 125 collections in 26 states reaching a total of 21,532 toys collected!

Thanks to our amazing supporters who continue to spread word of the SCT mission, Second Chance Toys is keeping thousands of pounds of plastic out of landfills and donating beautiful toys to children in need all over the country.

The total number of toys donated to date is now over 170,000 and we couldn't have done it without the dedication of our volunteers.

Thank you so much for your support! 

The weather outside has been frightful. Much of the country has been dealing with snow and extreme cold weather that has kept people indoors with fingers and toes tingly from the cold. If you're stuck inside, there's a way to make the time pass and it'll warm your heart too.

You know that resolution you made to be more organized and less cluttered? You know how cleaning out closets, family areas, garages, and more sounds like no fun? Instead of thinking of the chore that it is, think of it as something positive, something that creates happy faces. Focus on who will benefit from your hard work.

Imagine the woman's face as she pulls your pastel yellow Easter suit off the rack at an organization where you donated it.  It's still in great shape but you want to buy something new, so you give it away. Now she can look as lovely as she wants to on her holiday -- doesn't that make you feel good?

Think of the man who doesn't have a warm coat for this historically cold winter we're having. You have several coats bursting out of the hall closet, so you give one away. You're not only being kind; you might be saving a life. That feels good, right?

Now think of the smile on the face of the child who gets the no longer wanted toys that are still in good condition. Cleaning out the toy area makes space for all the Christmas goodies that Santa brought. Giving the toys to an organization like Second Chance Toys means a very deserving girl or boy will have something new to love and enjoy. Now the child isn't the only one smiling... you are too!

If you clean and then make your donations you can check off a resolution from your list, enjoy a de-cluttered house, and relish the good feeling of helping others. That alone will warm your heart and make this coldest of seasons a little easier to get through (even if the rest of you is freezing... brrrr). 

Author: Tara Lynn Johnson, Philadelphia-region freelance writer 

taralynnjohnson.com

Thanks to the dedication of our friends at Kidville, close to 3,000 gently used plastic toys were collected and donated around the country for the holidays.

Kidville associates volunteered their time to spread the word and promote the Second Chance Toys mission within each of their communities. Their efforts resulted in an amazing response from Kidville constituents and the donated toys were absolutely wonderful.

Many deserving children from the East Coast to the West were able to enjoy their donations just in time for the holidays and we couldn’t have done it without the commitment of Kidville.

Keeping non-biodegradable plastic toys out of landfills by donating them to children in need is a mission that both Kidville and SCT are devoted to and we look forward to doing even more 'GOOD and GREEN' together in 2014!

Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is behind us, many of us have thoughts of becoming a better person in 2014. Some may choose health and wellness, while others choose financial improvement, but there is also the select group of kind souls who resolve to give back to the community.

You might wonder which volunteer opportunity is right for you. Here’s a list of 7 ways you can serve your community.

1. Donate funds

Life can be hectic for many people and they simply do not have room in their schedules to donate their time. For those of us who can afford it, a donation of funds can go to a long way to a charity.

2. Donate time

For busy (and slim-budgeted) college students like myself, a donation of my time is all some are able to afford, but time can be just as valuable as money! Find a cause that touches your heart and contact an organization to discover what it is you can do to help out.

3. Seek out online opportunities

Again, I am quite the busy lady. I work during the day and have schoolwork on weekends. Like many people, most of my free time is in the evenings. For people in that situation, online volunteer opportunities are perfect. I can sit at my computer and help an organization when I can find the time. From blogging to tutoring, or bookkeeping to graphic designing, there are numerous ways a person can put their skills to use for charity from behind their computer desk.

4. Donate your craft

Every person has a unique range of skills. Find a way to use those skills to help someone else. For example, crafty people can donate handmade goods to organizations that distribute them to people in need. 

5. Travel for your cause

While much of volunteer focus is concerned with people near to us, it is important to remember that individuals in other countries desperately need our help. There are credible organizations (do your homework on this one!) that provide volunteer opportunities abroad. Also, it is possible to fundraise for your expenses, so this opportunity is more accessible than you might think.

6. Organize a food, clothing, book or toy drive

Leadership is essential for organizations to gather the materials they need. I know of a particular charity that keeps plastic toys out of landfills (hint, hint) that is collecting toys in April for Earth Week that would love your efforts!

7. Raise awareness

My final tip for helping others in this New Year is to spread the word about the joys of volunteering. As much as your efforts will help others, it will help you just as much through the satisfaction it brings. The more we let others know, the more good will be done.  Share this post, get to work and let’s make 2014 a wonderful year for every life we touch. 

Author: Emily Bloomquist, Early Childhood Education Student

Florida resident, Emily Riggans, reached out to Second Chance Toys two months prior to our 2013 Holiday collection. Once she learned of our organization she couldn’t wait to jump in to help the SCT mission.

Emily began her volunteer efforts by encouraging her community to get involved. She reached out to her local Fire Department as well as many friends and family across South Florida—all were very excited to help.

She spoke with our partners from 1-800-GOT-JUNK? for toy delivery assistance and was even able to set up a meeting with Neiman Marcus of Fort Lauderdale so that they could collect toys as part of their outstanding “Give, Care, Share” initiative.

After all of the community outreach, toy pickups, cleaning and sorting were complete, close to 1,000 gently used plastic toys had been collected. The beautiful toys were delivered to the Miami Rescue Mission, an organization serving the homeless of South Florida since 1922.

Thank you to Emily, Neiman Marcus Fort Lauderdale, and all of the volunteers who contributed to this fantastic collection. It’s because of dedicated individuals like you that we are able to do what we do!

Associates from the Earthserve team at Johnson & Johnson in Raritan, NJ have held their first SCT collection resulting in over 100 toys donated to children in need within their community!

Earthserve is J&J Raritan’s campus green team and they are truly dedicated to helping the environment, making their volunteer efforts with Second Chance Toys a perfect fit.

Associates came together to gather gently used plastic toys from their own children or grandchildren to be redistributed to kids who may go without this holiday season. Some associates without a source for gently used toys even went as far as purchasing new toys to make a contribution.

Once the toys were sorted through and cleaned, Catherine Pherson of Earthserve personally delivered them to a local organization serving kids in need. 

Amazing work. Thank you for your dedication, Earthserve!

See below for a heartfelt note from Johnson & Johnson Earthserve:

Dear Second Chance Toys,

Thank you for this program that is helpful on so many fronts. You connect volunteer organizations with charitable groups who can use help, you assist charitable organizations in locating donors, and you do Planet Earth a big favor by encouraging the REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE concept around the most gluttonous time of the year.

Happy holidays to everyone at Second Chance Toys from everyone at Earthserve!

 

With the generous help of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, over 1,000 toys from local Second Chance Toys holiday collections were transported to New Community Corporation Harmony House in Newark, NJ.

The toys were collected and cleaned by Evergreen Elementary in Scotch Plains, Kidville Westfield and Westfield Pediatric Dental Group.

Newark mayor Luis Quintana and Steve Weatherford of the NY Giants were on hand at the transitional housing facility to distribute the toys to all of the deserving children. They even joined the fun and helped test out the great donations alongside their excited new owners!

 

With circulars touting TVs for rock-bottom prices, games and toys that children absolutely must have, and many items that shoppers didn't know they needed until they saw them, it’s easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in the consumerism of the holidays. It's even easier to lose sight of one of the greatest gifts that you can give – joy.

In our consumer culture, it can take effort to overcome the onslaught of ads and pressure to buy certain things or spend a certain amount during the holidays. I've met people who thought that only a $50 gift (or more) was “appropriate.” Bah humbug. I say it's not about the cost -- it's about the thought. Gifts can be bought or made. They can be small, but meaningful. They can be inexpensive, but mean the world to the receiver.

The real value reveals itself in the moment that you hand someone a present: To you, from me, and I picked it just for you. That usually brings a smile to the recipient's face. It’s nice to be remembered on a birthday or a holiday, and for kids, it’s fun to get a toy to play with -- especially if they don’t have many.

Gift givers may think they’re giving something tangible but in reality, they’re giving something even better, something magical -- they're giving the gift of joy, to the receiver and themselves. 

What's the value of that? It's priceless.

Author: Tara Lynn Johnson, Philadelphia-region freelance writer and joyful gift-giver.

taralynnjohnson.com

Volunteers supporting the Tashua Elementary Go Green Team in Connecticut have collected and donated over 400 toys for their annual Second Chance Toys Holiday Toy Drive! 

The shiny gently used plastic toys were delivered to Community Closet in Fairfield with the help of our outstanding partners at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

Thanks to their efforts in spreading the SCT mission through press and word of mouth, even more Connecticut communities are planning to hold their own toy collections in the future.

The Tashua Go Green Team is taking it one step further and has set a goal to collect even MORE toys! An additional toy drive for their community is in the works with hopes of reaching a total of 700+ toys before Christmas.

A special thanks to Jim Sullivan for always going above and beyond for SCT, and to Chris Kirk from 1-800-GOT-JUNK? for immediately jumping on the SCT train with enthusiasm and dedication. 

We know you'll exceed your goal, Tashua. Thank you for all you do!

 

Kidville’s Holiday FUNdraiser to Benefit

Second Chance Toys!

 

Sunday December 8th

4:00-5:30pm

Kidville – Upper East Side

163 E. 84th Street

One Ticket Required Per Person - $20

 

 

Featuring:

Photos with Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer

A special Holiday Concert from Kidville’s Rockin’ Railroad Band

Interactive Art Table

Play Time in the Kidville Gym

Pizza, Snack & Drinks for the Entire Fanily

& More!

 

Donations:

Kidville UES is collecting gently used plastic toys from December 2nd through the event on December 8th.  Every toy will be going directly to a child in need.

Click here to purchase tickets

 

Our valued supporters at Kidville will be opening their doors at 25 national locations to collect gently used plastic toys for the holidays.

All NY Metro collections will take place December 2nd until December 8th and will culminate with an exciting Holiday FUNdraiser!  

Please join us at Kidville UES on Sunday, December 8th from 4-5:30pm. There will be a ton of great activities, refreshments, music, and even an appearance by Dora the Explorer thanks to our outstanding supporters at Viacom! Don’t forget to bring your gently used plastic toy donations. All of the collected toys will be delivered to children in need in the surrounding communities that very same day! More details about the FUNdraiser here.

Click here to find a participating NY Metro Kidville near you.

See below for all other national locations:

Bethesda

4825 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Fallsgrove

Fallsgrove Village Center (14925-A Shady Grove Road), Rockville, MD 20850 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Brentwood

11740 San Vicente Blvd. Suite 107, Los Angeles, CA 90049 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Dallas

6025 Royal Lane, Dallas, TX 75230 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

The Woodlands 

4747 Research Forest Drive (Cochran's Crossing), The Woodlands, TX 77381 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Lincoln Park

1030 W. North Avenue (3rd Floor), Chicago, IL 60642 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Tivoli Village

420 S. Rampart Blvd, Suite 130, Las Vegas, NV 89145 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Wellesley

34 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02482 - Collecting December 9th until December 15th

Westport

1572 Post Road East, Westport, CT 0688 - Collecting December 2nd until December 8th

We are very excited to announce our collaboration with Johnson & Johnson for their America Recycles Day initiative.

J&J Associates joined forces with Second Chance Toys and collected more than 300 gently used plastic toys since April at their Skillman and Morris Plains locations as part of the company’s continued commitment to helping the environment.

Toys donated at these locations were cleaned, tagged and delivered to children in need that very same day in their very own community to bring smiles for the holidays. These efforts not only helped children, but kept pounds of non-biodegradable plastic out of landfills. America Recycles Day calls for bigger and better recycling, and we’re doing just that! These efforts compliment J&J’s already strong commitment through the Care to Recycle Program.

The recycling events took place November 12th in Morris Plains and November 14th in Skillman where Johnson & Johnson employees took their recycle pledge to help kids in need.

We are very proud of our results and look forward to growing this program together in the future!

Eagle Scout Mark Ciccaglione volunteered his time to collect toys for Second Chance Toys for the holidays in his hometown of Park Ridge, New Jersey.

Mark’s project took a lot of dedication and time. He and a group of volunteers from his troop distributed flyers around the community to explain his volunteer efforts. The flyer mentioned that he would go around house to house and collect toys that were left outside and also let his neighbors know that there would be collection boxes in the town library and local church. 

Additionally, Mark raised awareness by placing flyers outside of several restaurants, speaking at church masses and putting a notice in the church bulletin. Once all of the toys from his neighbors were collected, Mark and his troop volunteers took it one step further by getting permission to collect toy donations outside of some local businesses.

Over two days, close to 1,000 toys were cleaned, organized and inspected to be sent off to a recipient organization in Newark, NJ where they will be ‘reloved ‘and reused for the holidays.

Way to go, Mark! Your efforts are making a big difference! 

Since we are on the heels of Halloween I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about dress-up. Most children enjoy and can benefit from pretending to be someone else for a while. We aren’t done with the Halloween costumes yet!

The brain is strengthened during play with dress-up clothes; it actually has tons of cognitive benefits. When dressing up as someone else, children are learning to take the perspective of other people. Preschoolers and younger children in particular are still learning that other people think differently than they do and dress-up is a perfect way to practice.

Dress-up and pretend play is also a way children learn to deal with our world. Doctor coats and bags help children get over their fear of the doctor’s office; firefighter jackets and helmets teach children to trust firefighters. Not only that, but creativity blossoms when children are given the opportunity to dress as someone else. A safari hat can take a child on a extravagant excursion in the jungle, or simple rain boots can turn an entire classroom into a giant mud puddle.

Quite often when people think of dress-up, they think of the expensive costumes and sets. However, that is not necessary! Dig in your closet and find clothes that you don’t wear anymore; your children will love them, and you’re recycling all at the same time. And don’t forget those Halloween costumes! 

Author: Emily Bloomquist, Early Childhood Education Student

Sadly, there are some children who have not yet learned to have an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ when receiving a gift. They might make faces if they receive something not to their liking or sulk and say "I already have this" if they get a duplicate. It’s so simple to help children to learn how to appreciate what they have and what they receive. It's also simple and extremely important to teach them how to give.

As the holiday season begins to chug along toward its wrapping-ripping conclusion, here are some ideas to help little ones see the bigger picture, more of the reason for the season, as they celebrate and have fun too.

1)  For Christmas and other gift-giving occasions this time of year, make a wish list for family and friends (and Santa), but limit the number of presents that can be on it. Back in the day, it was common for children to sit with large catalogs from department stores and circle everything they wanted. And now, as they are influenced by the bombardment of TV, Internet, and other advertising, children of all ages want more, more, more. But it's important to have less, less, less -- to save space, to be able to organize everything easily, to guarantee one will actually use what she or he receives, and to help the environment by not eventually overloading landfills with unwanted, unused plastic toys, games, and other things. List limiting also makes children choose what they really want and eliminates feelings of entitlement to getting whatever they desire.

2)  Choose one currently owned toy to donate to charity for each new toy that's received. Explain that there are many children who don't have any toys and it would be nice to share with them. Children often believe that everyone is like them -- that all children live the same way, have the same kind of family and the same living situations, but that's not the case. Doing this when kids are little helps to encourage a lifetime of sharing, giving, and compassion.

3) Saying thank you is nice, but writing it is even better. Have the children write a thank you for each gift received. Even the littlest among them can draw a crayon mark that is just theirs after Mom or Dad writes the actual note. Explain as the note is being written why it's important to thank someone for their generosity and kindness, for their thoughtfulness. Just like saying "please" is important, so is "thank you." And for a gift, it's a nice gesture to take the time to write a note specifically to the giver of a gift. It makes the gift buyer feel good and, for the children, reinforces the ideas of gratitude and thankfulness.

There are many opportunities throughout the year to reinforce gratitude, sharing, and caring. But the holidays create the most amazing tied-with-bows opportunities to do so in a really big way.

Author: Tara Lynn Johnson, Philadelphia-region freelance writer and thank you note sender

When Peggy Traynham’s daughter died of breast cancer four years ago, she assumed the responsibility of raising her five children. Two of them, a 13-year-old girl and a disabled 23-year-old disabled young man, still live with her today.

The trend of grandparents raising grandchildren is a growing one. Of the nation's families, 2.4 million are now maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them, according to the latest Census data.

But trying to make ends meet has not been easy for many of these grandparents. Traynham, 61, a retired security officer with no income of her own, lives in a low-income, Newark townhouse development owned and operated by the non-profit New Community Corporation. She relies heavily on the organization’s food pantry to help feed herself and her two grandchildren, whose government checks help pay the rent.

 “It’s been helpful lots of times,” said Traynham, who picks up items like frozen whole chicken, canned goods and bread from New Community’s Emergency Food Pantry, during the monthly visits.

Since the pantry opened in March of 2012, the number of families and individuals in need of food has steadily increased. This year alone, the pantry has served more than 7,000 clients, including seniors, single parents, low income working individuals and the homeless. 

“Interestingly, the demographic that has really increased is the ‘working poor,’ those people who don’t make enough to always make ends meet,” explained Malcolm Hayman, Assistant Director of Social Services for New Community Corp. He said the need for food assistance is rising because of the economy and cuts in the federal food stamp program, which take effect November 1st. With the approaching holidays, pantry officials are expecting even more people to turn to them for food assistance and they are worried there will simply not be enough food.

The New Community pantry is open after the 15th of every month and typically distributes 90 percent of its stock by the third day after opening.The pantry receives a pre-determined allotment of food monthly from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and occasionally also receives food from Catholic Charities.Still, it is difficult to keep up with the demand.

“We are forced to refer clients to other pantries after our supply runs out,” Hayman, the New Community official, explained. “Unfortunately, our supply falls far short of the demand.”

If you can help the New Community Emergency Food Pantry by making a food donation, please call 973-623-6114. The pantry will even pick up major donations of food.

“Nowadays, we all need help,” said Traynham, the Newark grandmother raising her two grandchildren. “Today it may be me, but tomorrow it could be you.”

Author: Angela Stewart, Director of Communications at New Community Corp.

As the weather turns colder and the leaves changes to the yellows and browns of autumn, I am reminded of what nature does so easily that many people struggle to do, reuse and recycle.  The leaves will eventually fall to the ground and over the coming months turn into compost that the trees will use to nourish their growth next Spring and Summer. Our society has become a disposable society. We throw things away without regard for the environment or the ability for that item to be reused. Second Chance Toys helps me feel good and gets me closer to nature.

You might be wondering how I have made the leap from leaves, trees and nature to toys but it is really quite simple. Children are fed and grow with the help of toys. Toys help their imaginations grow, letting them learn about the adult world through play and gives them joy. It is feeding their minds like the leaves feed the tree. Many of the plastic toys that my children outgrew still had plenty of life left in them and just needed a new home and a good wash cloth. Second Chance Toys gives the toys that new home, a home where they can be appreciated and used. The children need toys that will expand their minds while bringing a bit of joy.

As the leaves change and you clean out your children’s closets to get ready for the winter and make room for the holiday gift giving season, think of the leaves and what that toy might mean to a child whose ground is barren of toys. Include your children in this process by letting them help pack up the toys and let them tell you of the joy and dreams that toy brought to them. Another child is waiting for those same joys and dreams. Donate your toys today to give a dream to another child and let their minds grow. 

Author: Ron Lottermann, Fair Lawn Recycling Coordinator and SCT Collection Volunteer

What’s the key to inspiring the next generation of humanitarians?  That's the question I ask myself when spending time with my 5 year old niece and 8 year old nephew.

Aside from the buffered picture our elders paint for us, childhood often means having little understanding of what the outside world is really like.

I see my niece and nephew’s eyes light up when I give them a birthday present wrapped in colorful paper, take them to an exciting carnival, or get them that cool new must have winter coat.. but do they know that there are children in the world who are not lucky enough to have those things?

Starting at a very young age my parents exposed me to the art of helping, volunteering, and just being kind. From the small act of helping an elderly person with their groceries or having a conversation with someone having a bad day, to the larger gestures like providing a warm bed and hot meal for a person in need. My parents never thought twice about jumping in and lending a helping hand. As time passed they became the ‘go to’ people for comfort and guidance. They helped not only our friends and family, but distant acquaintances and often times, even complete strangers. My parents are the inspiration for me to make a difference and focus my skills toward the greater good in order to ‘help those who cannot help themselves’. That’s why I find my position as Operations Manager at Second Chance Toys to be so rewarding.

Quick backstory: My parents had to redirect and clarify their message when I was 6 years old. I tried to give my McDonalds Happy Meal away to a homeless man on the streets of Boston at Christmas time without asking them if I could speak to a stranger. They had to quickly jump in and explain that giving away my own dinner wasn’t the best way to help. We went in and got him his own food and I was able to enjoy mine as well (along with my awesome new Happy Meal toy – a Strawberry Shortcake Christmas Ornament- very exciting stuff). All in all, a great lesson that I'll never forget.

I’ll be forever thankful for the gift of empathy and the desire to make a difference that my parents gave me as a young person, and now I am passing that precious gift to my niece and nephew. Someday, when I’m a mother, I look forward to passing it along to my own children as well.

Whether it’s by providing a gentle reminder that when they don’t get exactly what they want, there are children out there with absolutely nothing -- children their same age with their same wants and needs. I always make sure to share pictures of the toy donations I coordinate so they are able to see the joy on their peer’s faces, and of course, the smile on their Auntie’s face as well.  As they are getting older I’m seeing that they are able and eager to understand the message even more.

The key to inspiring the next generation of humanitarians is to do exactly what my parents did. Share the great need for kindness in the world and explain that not everyone is as lucky as the next. Most importantly, share the impact that kindness has on everyone involved; the person providing the kindness, the person who needs it, and the people witnessing it who are now inspired to do the same.

When my niece and nephew are a little older I’ll be taking them to charity events as my most important, very special guests -- the next generation of inspired humanitarians.

 

A friend's Facebook post recently reminded me that I've been missing something very basic: blog reading. Also, commenting on blog posts. And I want to get back to it, and share with you what on the internet compels me to read, share, and click (and, er, sometimes purchase). Why? Because my mom nailed it when she said to me yesterday, "Hey, you can find a lot on the internet!" So, I bring you a new post series: Hey Internet, Keep Being Awesome. Happy reading!

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