Santa Needs Help Cross-Checking Safe Toys

Tim O'Connor has played Santa for 23 years — giving away toys through the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program in Grand Rapids, Mich.

But Santa's workshop never had to contend with anything like this.

"Some of the toys that we've checked once, already there's been other recalls since then, and that means we've got to check these boxes twice," says O'Connor. "Our fear is that there's going to be a toy that we're going to miss, and we don't want to get the repercussions for that."

This year's massive toy recalls have created an unexpected burden for the nation's charities, who struggle to ensure that the toys they give out this holiday season are safe.

For many organizations, that means bringing in scores more volunteers than usual, to cross-check donated toys against an ever-expanding list of recalls.

At the Salvation Army headquarters in New York, they're appealing for help.

"It's put a tremendous burden — logistical burden — upon us," says Maj. George Hood. "We have 25,000 bell ringers on the streets at any given time — and now we're going to need thousands of toy sorters."

Those charities that don't have the manpower are getting out of the toy business altogether. At least 123 Salvation Army thrift shops in 15 states have opted to take all toys off the shelves this year.

At the Salvation Army thrift shop in Hyattsville, Md., bigger items, like bikes and sleds, are out on the floor, but the rest of the donated toys are piling up in the basement.

For some shoppers, it's a big disappointment.

"It really hurts," says Mary Louise Robinson. She runs a local day care center, and shops at the Salvation Army every year for toys to give to her kids.

"[It will be] very devastating for parents who could not afford to buy toys for their kids from the regular stores," echoes Joy Black, a mother shopping at the Salvation Army with her young son. "A lot of kids won't have Christmas."