Ask Unclutterer: Where can I donate stuffed animals?

Reader Darlene recently asked the following question in the comment section of the post What to do with those old toys:

I have bags of slightly used stuffed animals. I’ve found most places like hospitals and day care center don’t want them because of germ contamination. Where can I find a site that would welcome them? How about for the flood victims in Texas or hurricane victims in Florida or even … victims in California? Give me some ideas please.

Darlene, this is a common concern, so I’m very glad you asked the question. The following are a few suggestions that may help anyone with gently used stuffed animals looking for new homes.

Give them away directly to people who want them

I’ve successfully used my local freecycle group to give away stuffed animals. It doesn’t always work, but it sometimes does. Other similar possibilities are Facebook, Nextdoor, and the free section of Craigslist.

Give them to Goodwill or other thrift stores

While many thrift stores don’t accept donations of stuffed animals, a number of them do!

Each Goodwill chapter has its own policies regarding what it accepts — and some specify that they take stuffed animals, such as Goodwill of the Heartland in Iowa and Goodwill of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo Counties in California.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County in Oregon is another example of a charity that takes stuffed animals for its thrift stores. Again, each local organization will have its own policies, but you might find that yours will welcome your donation.

Note: These policies can change over time, so be sure to check before each donation.

Donate via SAFE: Stuffed Animals for Emergencies

SAFE is a 20-year-old non-profit organization that helps get gently used stuffed animals (as well as blankets, children’s clothes, and other items) to those who need them. You can donate through one of the chapters in Florida or South Carolina. Or you can send them to one of the urgent needs locations that SAFE has identified. Here’s just one of the places currently listed:

Edmund D. Edelman’s Children’s Court is the court that handles all the juvenile dependency cases in all of Los Angeles County. These cases usually deal with abuse and neglect issues. Annually they handle about 30,000 cases, and some of these cases require the children to speak. The courthouse has asked us if we could donate stuffed animals to help ease these children’s fears during a very stressful time in their lives.

SAFE also has good instructions for cleaning stuffed animals (PDF) before donating them.

Donate to police or fire departments

An 8-year-old girl in Colorado who had been in an auto accident donated her stuffed animal collection to the Denver police department to give to other children like herself. You could certainly ask if your local police or fire department would like your stuffed animals to hand out to children in similar traumatic circumstances.

Give them to animal shelters

As reader Monique mentioned in the comments, this is always an alternative to consider. And it will work for toys that have stains (even after washing) that would make them unsuitable for giving to children. Please check with the shelter you have in mind, as not all of them will want such donations. But some, such as Four Peaks Animal Rescue in Arizona, do include stuffed animals on their wish lists.

5 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Where can I donate stuffed animals?”

  1. posted by Dorothy on

    Please don’t send your “stuff” to disaster-struck areas unless it’s via a legitimate service organization that wants them. The cost of transporting, receiving, storing and distributing “stuff” is huge. Money is more useful.

    You’re right to ask where to donate thes items which, frankly, aren’t the easiest things to find homes for, rather than just dumping them on an organization and shifting the burden to them.

    Sometimes clutter is, unfortunately, just junk, and we can’t shift it to someone else. Good luck in finding an organization that can use your items!

  2. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Wash them in hot water with a non-bleach laundry disinfectant, then dry in a hot dryer. Stuffed animals are notorious for harboring head lice and bedbugs. Many charities won’t even take them anymore. Be courteous and donate them unquestionably clean and safe, for the sake of the children who will receive them.

  3. posted by laura ann on

    If new with tags, donate to group homes or day care. Otherwise put them in the trash.

  4. posted by SC on

    I second the recommendation for daycares. Our daycare took bags of stuffed animals more than once. Probably helped that we knew them and they knew us.

  5. posted by Paula Johnson on

    Check to see if a local charity does textile recycling. In my area, Goodwill does. I fill up a plastic trash bag with fabric scraps from sewing and clothing/towels/sheets that are too worn or holey to be resold. I label the bag TEXTILE RECYCLING and they send it off to be made into stuff like insulation.

    https://www.wastedive.com/news/how-goodwill-is-propelling-the-future-of-textile-recycling/427206/

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