For the past 4 years I have hosted a community toy swap at my local library. The concept is simple- People bring in their used, and no longer wanted, toys and books the night before the swap. For each toy, or ziploc bag of small toys, we give them one ticket. Volunteers then organize and clean the toys as much as possible. The next morning, people return to exchange their tickets for "new" toys. I organize this around Christmas so that people who might not otherwise be able to afford Christmas presents for their children can pick out gifts. Often, people simply donate their used toys without asking for tickets. Those tickets are set aside and donated to people who need tickets. The last two hours of the swap are open to everyone- tickets or no tickets. Everything is free to anyone who needs or wants it. In the second year of the swap, I introduced door prizes. I along with some family members, friends, and local businesses donated prizes that were given away by random drawing. To qualify for the door prizes, all you have to do is participate in the swap- donate toys, exchange toys, or just take toys home.
My favorite part about this is that it helps EVERYONE- People who love to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, people who just want to clean out for the holidays, people who can't afford new presents, and, most important to me, hard working people who wouldn't normally ask for help around the holidays. They feel that they're trading in things for toys and it seems to make it easier for them.
The event has been held at the Gardendale Public Library for the past four years. This year, the Gardendale Civic Center has offered to host it.
I estimate around two hundred people participated in the swap last year and each year dozens of people tell me how much this event helped them in their time of need. There's always so many happy tears!
Funded by Birmingham, AL (October 2018)