However much care and attention go into choosing gifts for the festive season, it can often turn out to be a hit-and-miss affair. Toys meant to give hours of fun and interest are unwrapped, inspected and put to one side - rarely, if ever, to appear again from the top of the wardrobe or under the bed. Similarly, all kinds of games, clothes, books and gadgets, which to an adult's eye looked just the thing, turn out to be - for reasons sometimes mystifying - just not quite right. But rather than letting such unwanted gifts simply gather dust, the smart thing to do is to take action. It is almost a rule of nature that if one child doesn't like a toy or outfit - or has now outgrown it - there is always another one who will. Fortunately, several organisations in Hong Kong are only too willing to help in finding a good home for each and every item. "Donated goods are sorted, distributed and sold in our family stores in Hong Kong and Macau," says David Chiu, assistant chief operations officer for The Salvation Army recycling programme. "The net proceeds then go for use across our community-care programmes." Where appropriate, some items will be given directly to families in need and to Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. In view of limited manpower to take care of logistics arrangements, donors are encouraged to drop off any unwanted gifts at one of the 15 family stores or nearly 250 collection points in Hong Kong - and to refrain from passing on anything which is clearly worn out or broken. "We collect toys and clothing, but also books, footwear, handbags, electrical appliances and accessories," Chiu says. "These should either be brand new or, if used, in clean condition. Our warehouse is not large enough to keep furniture." He notes, too, that parents can encourage donations by bringing their children to one of the family stores and explaining the recycling process. Doing so can also have a broader educational purpose. Adelaide Gow, who handles communications and PR for the Crossroads Foundation, adds that the benefits of "re-gifting" are not just confined to Hong Kong. "One of our recent shipments to a rural community in Uganda included toys and school stationery for children living with their grandparents because they had lost both parents to HIV/Aids," she says. "Many of them had never owned a toy in their lives and previously had to practise writing and maths by scratching in the dirt with a stick, because they had no pencils or exercise books. For children who have known such intense poverty, that sort of gift can be something they remember for the rest of their lives." Crossroads recently sent a consignment of toys and other donated items to Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, where a partner organisation supports foster families who have taken in orphaned or abandoned children. The families themselves are often extremely poor, but the donations go some way to helping them give a normal, happy childhood to the youngsters for whom they are caring. "We also redistribute a huge number of new donated toys to needy children in Hong Kong," Gow says. "Last Christmas, some were handed out at the party for the Ebenezer school for the blind, as special encouragement for the children's hard work over the school year." Elsewhere, there is consistent high demand for new sports equipment from groups which work with children at risk and youths in poor communities - especially bats, balls of all kinds, children's bicycles and scooters. Having these can revolutionise an NGO youth programme, which may otherwise have difficulty buying such things because of basic budget constraints. "We are in regular need of new toys, especially educational ones, musical instruments, stationery and children's books," Gow says. "Unfortunately, we can't say yes to everything, even though we know the intentions are generous. For instance, battery-operated toys break down easily, and replacing batteries is an extra expense for families in need. Also, we can't accept soft toys for reasons of hygiene."