Saturday, January 5, 2013

Stocking Stuffers Project

     This last Christmas (2012), I had a last minute brainstorm to get rid of the kids' extra toys. None of the Christmas donation places accept used items, and the thrift shops charge too much for most of what they sell, especially to the people that can least afford it. So a few days before Christmas Eve I posted an ad on Craig's List, offering "stocking stuffers" to people who wouldn't mind getting used toys for their kids. These were stated up front as being used and figuring a value around $5 (if new) per bag, one bag per kid. Just send first names, ages, likes, and an address. I also offered household supplies to those families requesting them (toilet paper, dish soap, and laundry soap were the biggest hits). I posted that we'd be setting up a route and making front porch drop off's sometime Christmas Eve for anyone responding... The results were amazing. Some people asked for things for their own kids, others for kids down the street, or for co-worker's children. Some didn't say how they knew the family. All contacts were kept anonymous, as was I during the whole process. What started as an idea to get rid of extra toys turned into a large scale project overnight.
     Sorting toys, making lists, organizing map routes, and bagging things for each family gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment I've felt in a long time. In the end, with help from close family and friends, we managed to bag toys and household supplies for 31 families in 9 cities, a total of 68 children in the area. Yes, the packages each kid received were small, but that was part of the point. It was not a substitute for a Christmas gift, just a little extra something to show people the world cares. Each family also received a card which simply read "Merry Christmas - Someone Cares!", and a handmade ornament from the girls.

31 bags, filled and ready to go on Christmas Eve, 2012

     Just to give people a better idea of what we're talking about toy-wise, here are some examples of things the kids could have gotten in their individual bags...

          1) A My Little Pony full-size pony (with a brush and two accessories)
          2) Three or four Hot Wheels and two rubber band gliders
          3) A large electronic baby/toddler toy (light up music ball, etc)
          4) Barbie with two outfits
          5) Two age appropriate puzzles
          6) One or two larger toy trucks
          Almost all bags also included either a coloring book (with 4 crayons) or a reading book

     There were lots of other things given out too, those are just examples. All things placed in each child's bag were based on interests the given child was reported to have. One 9 year old boy was said to like "science, bats, and dinosaurs", so he was given a bat stuffed animal I happened to have two of, and three decent-sized plastic dinosaur skeletons...

     Due to the positive response this project had, both in helping me feel a bit more worthwhile, and in the messages about how much the kids loved the things they received, I have decided to continue this project next year... But, if you're going to do something - you should do it right... So, I'm preparing ahead this time. Toys and clothes and household things are being bought on clearance and at yard sales and thrift shops. And things my kids have outgrown (toys and clothes) are being stored away in the basement.

X-Large tubs bought on clearance... Labeled for "boys", "girls", "baby", and "misc/household"

     So far, I've already gotten some great deals to hand out to kids for Christmas 2013. I plan on posting pictures of things and ideas as they come up...

Hot Wheels Foil Pack - contains car, trading card, and sticker (10 for 42 cents each)

Play-Doh 2 oz packs

Merry Christmas plastic cups (43 at 2 cents each)

     I also already have 2 boxes of kids books set aside, everything from board books for babies to about the 6th-7th grade level, covering a variety of topics/genres...
     I'm hoping that by posting this, maybe it'll inspire someone else to get what they can for cheap when they have a few dollars extra, and save it for a similar project in their area. The 2012 bags had an average cost of $5-6 per HOUSEHOLD, once you figure in the household goods that were bought new (toilet paper, lotion, laundry soap, dish soap, bar soap, toothpaste, deodorant, etc). My project budget for this year is set at $5 per week. I'm hoping to have enough things saved up to help at least 40-50 families this year. That should be around 80-100 kids from my area getting a little extra to smile about. According to me, that's money well spent. :)

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