Spark of Love Toy Drive. Photo courtesy of County of Los Angeles Fire Department
Spark of Love Toy Drive. Photo courtesy of County of Los Angeles Fire Department

Where To Donate Toys for the Holidays: Toys for Tots, Spark of Love, and More

Christmas is a rough time to be in need; donating toys during the holiday season can truly change the lives of children, and showing our kids how the community rallies is important. Volunteering with our kids is a great holiday tradition when we can manage it, but even when we can't, there is joy in passing along some of last year's gifts before finding out what Santa delivers this season. Or when we shop for Christmas or Hanukkah, maybe we could add just one extra for a child in need. 

Below are some great places to bring both kinds of toy donations—new and gently used—to spread around some of that holiday joy.

New and Unwrapped Holiday Toy Donations

The following annual holiday programs accept donations of new, unwrapped toys, which they pass on to little ones for Christmas:

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is probably the most famous of the holiday toy drives. Operated by the Marine Corps each holiday season, the charity brings gifts to less fortunate children all over the country. This year the toy drive has gone virtual (like everything else!) and anyone who wishes to participate can visit the Virtual Toy Box and pick toys to donate.

Spark of Love

Spark of Love is the Los Angeles Fire Department's holiday toy drive; stations generally start collecting and accepting requests for new toys the day after Thanksgiving. This year Spark of Love has also transitioned to a virtual gifting format. However, to drop off a new, unwrapped toy in person, schedule an appointment at one of the participating fire stations.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Children's Hospital Los Angeles also gratefully accepts toy donations. To prevent infection, toys need to be new and unwrapped. The hospital keeps a specific wish list and has designated drop-off dates on the website. Drop-off hours are limited for the 2020 giving season and must be scheduled in advance.

CHIPs for Kids

CHIPS for Kids is the holiday toy drive sponsored by the California Highway Patrol. The annual toy drive is both virtual and hosting drive-thru events this season.

Operation Homefront

This Holiday Toy Drive helps bring Holiday happiness to our military families. The website has details for how to donate this year, and also how to participate in one of the drive's donation events

PALS Police Activities League

This annual Toy Drive usually happens at various police stations across the Southland, including Santa Monica. However this year the drive is going virtual, and has options to make a general donation or sponsor a child.

Los Angeles County Toy Loan 

LA County Toy Loan is usually an amazing option for donating second-hand toys in good condition. This wonderful program has been around since the Great Depression, lending toys to needy families on an honor system, much like public libraries. However, this year, due to Covid-19, the program is only able to accept new toys, and only at the main office in downtown Los Angeles. Simply call the office to arrange a drop off.

In addition to all of these organizations, many school or children's organizations have their own internal toy drives to supply toys in their communities.

Gently Used Holiday Toy Donations

It's sometimes trickier than you might think finding someone (other than a younger cousin) to gratefully accept gently used toys. This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, many places that usually accept gently used and pre-loved toys are not able to take them. Happily, there are still a few places that will, and they need donations more than ever before.

One way to recycle last year's favorites is by donating them to thrift shops. The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles are two of the largest organizations with multiple drop-off locations around the city. There are also a host of local hospitals, churches, and other worthy charities operate thrift stores where some families are looking to buy second-hand treasures to thrill a new round of kids. The Salvation Army is accepting all donations except mattresses and baby gear. St. Vincent de Paul's website has a detailed list of all items they are currently accepting, including toys, sports gear, clothes, and shoes. For local hospitals, thrift stores, and churches, be sure to call before donating to make sure they are still able to accept donations this year.

With so many in need, this is a great time to think beyond toys. Closets and garages that got sorted and organized during manic pandemic cleaning frenzies last summer may have led to boxes and bags of items to be donated. The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul both accept almost anything you can think of including books, kitchen goods, clothes, and furniture. Out of the Closet also has many locations and accepts all adult goods and clothes.

Discover more ways to give back with our list of spots for Volunteering at Holiday Time.

Find more holiday ideas in our Holiday Events and Activities Guide.

Post originally published November 17, 2011

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