Have too much LEGO? Donate it to charity

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After we ran an article about selling your unwanted LEGO a week or so ago we were contacted with details of a far more worthwhile way of disposing of it: donate it to The Giving Brick, a Kansas-based charity that reconstitutes LEGO sets and gives them to needy kids.

Founder and Executive Director Matthew Gould, writes:

LEGO is the most recognizable toy brand in the world. LEGO offers kids and adults limitless possibilities for imaginative play, cooperation, problem-solving, and creativity. Everyone agrees ‘LEGO is Awesome’!

Despite all its possibilities and benefits, the little bricks remain out of reach for many kids. LEGO is a high-quality toy and new LEGO sets can be expensive. Many of our community’s neediest, most-deserving kids don’t get the opportunity to own LEGO sets of their own.

Luckily, there is a group in Kansas City that aims to change that. The Giving Brick is a nonprofit corporation based in Kansas that provides LEGO sets to needy kids. The Giving Brick has partnered with local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) offices to distribute high-quality LEGO sets to children that have been abused or neglected. Started in 2014, The Giving Brick recycles previously-loved LEGO back into LEGO sets. They collect, clean, sort, and package used LEGO bricks into new gift boxes. “Each gift box is a complete LEGO set,” explains Matthew Gould, Founder and Executive Director. “We rebuild models based on retail LEGO sets and include reprinted instructions for building.”

Matthew and his family donated all the pieces for the pilot year and in December 2014 they gifted 10 boxed sets - almost 10,000 pieces. “We wanted to give our LEGO sets to kids who had little else to call their own and needed an escape from the challenges life was throwing at them. We knew CASA could help.” With their help The Giving Brick LEGO sets made wonderful Christmas gifts for 9 kids in the Jackson County, Missouri foster care system.

One set was such a huge hit with a 12-year old boy, new to the system and alone in an institutional setting, that he got a second one. “We heard his second set was missing a piece, but by the time we connected with his CASA volunteer to replace the piece, he had already started building his own creations; which is the whole point.”

The Giving Brick hopes to collect enough LEGO in 2015 to gift 25 boxed sets - each over 400 pieces - for the holiday season. “There are over 1,500 kids in the foster care system in Jackson County alone; if we collect enough LEGO we can help lots of kids,” says Matthew, as he talks about his plans for the future. “We hope to grow large enough to help many more kids during the holidays, and to also give smaller gift sets for birthdays or “rainy-day” gifts”. “There are enough LEGO bricks already on the planet to give every kid in the world over 200 pieces, and LEGO makes billions more each year. With so much LEGO in the world, we are hopeful generous donors will come forward and donate LEGO to kids who otherwise would go without.”

The Giving Brick accepts donations of used LEGO in any condition. They also accept direct donations, which are used to buy missing pieces from used-bricks sellers. “Sometimes a set is missing a handful of rare bricks and we try to buy used from Bricklink sellers to complete the sets.” The Giving Brick is in the process of filing for federal tax-exempt status right now, and expects to be a 501(c)(3) public corporation later this year.

Find out how to help by visiting www.thegivingbrick.org. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see how their projects are going.

36 comments on this article

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By in United States,

This is a really great idea!
One quick thing though- sometimes it would be better to sell the set/s (as they can go for more than 3x their original value) and buy new/different sets, getting more for your money.

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By in United States,

SprinkleOtter - thanks for the comment and idea. Many time the sets we rebuild may be in a different color scheme because we are working from donated LEGO bricks. In these cases, selling the sets does not bring much value. However, to a child who otherwise would not have any LEGO, these sets are priceless.

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By in United States,

Fantastic project!
I wish you all the best with it. :)

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By in United States,

ummm... no ;)

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By in United States,

@ TheGivingBrick.
Different color schemes? I'm impressed- that's usually not an easy feat.
Can you tell me the average size of the sets you distribute? Are they usually close to original condition, or do you generally replace most of the parts? And lastly, how do you know what sets someone is giving you?

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By in United Kingdom,

I think what TGB means is that if a set requires a blue 2x4 brick they might substitute a black one, but reflect that in the newly-created instructions.

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By in United States,

@ Huw.
Actually, I went to their website- they have reconstructed several sets in entirely new color "schemes" (usually a mash-up). I'm just saying that it can often be difficult to find some parts in alternate colors.

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By in United Kingdom,

Does anyone know if there is Uk equivalent of this charity?

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By in United States,

Great comments! Last year's sets averaged 600 pieces with the smallest at 400 and the largest at 1000. This year we are aiming for similarly sized holiday gifts, although 1000 pieces almost maxed out our boxes. We are also building smaller sets, 100-ish for birthdays and "rainy-days." Our partner organizations have lots of demand.

We stick to the original LEGO model and only deviate in color when we know we are missing the right color. It is a challenge because we want the resulting model to look cool, so we have to alter the color scheme almost entirely when that occurs. The most time consuming and challenging part is making new instructions in the right color.

When we get donations we sometimes get the pieces bagged by set, instructions sometimes included. We sometimes get boxes of LEGO and random instructions. In these cases we sort to the instructions as much as possible and just reproduce the original models and sets. If we do not know what we are getting, we sort into Rebrickable and figure out sets to build from there.

Sorry for the long response. @SprinkleOtter @Huw

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By in United States,

@matt71young , sorry I am not aware of any, although Fairy Bricks does great stuff with new LEGO sets for sick kids. They are in the UK, I think.

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By in United States,

@ TheGivingBrick.
Okay, thanks for the info- what you guys are doing is really spectacular!
Have you thought about branching out into multiple cities?

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By in United States,

I think it is a good idea and effort! I was looking to get rid of extra pieces. I am simply out of capacity (there really needs to be an article about "Running out of Room" or "Lego Hoarding: Know when to Stop"). I 'd rather give the pieces away to charity than have to set up shop and sell them on ebay or in a yard sale. Thanks for the idea!

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By in United States,

Just want to suggest: Target frequently clears out Lego, so it may be worth springing for a set if you see it on the cheap and passing that on. I'm sure this charity wants bigger sets, but post-holiday polybags often run for under $2 at Target.

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By in United Kingdom,

Let's hope it is successful
Nice project

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By in Finland,

Yep, I agree. Lego is awesome.

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By in United Kingdom,

In the UK.
The Fairy Friday Cake sale is on Friday and Fairy Bricks accept donations all year.
http://fairybricks.org/

I think they are going to accept used sets and bricks fairly soon, if they do not already?
The hospitals probably give Lego to the sickest or neediest patients?
Kev at Fairy bricks can give you the answers you need.

Not sure about direct donations to orphans, but you could try Barnardo's ?
http://www.barnardos.org.uk/

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By in United States,

I just searched back over 2 weeks without articles being filtered out, and couldn't find the article about selling. Did I miss something or is there something screwy with the website?

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By in Belgium,

Great initiative!

Keep up the good work!

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By in United States,

Thanks so much for the kind words or support!

We have considered branching out to other cities, although we are pretty small still and do not have the budget. Hopefully in the future, if we continue to be successful and have wonderful supporters like you all.

@copperwonder96 - we would love some of your "running out of room" pieces! Contact us through our website.

Also, on our Facebook page we have pictures of specific pieces we are missing from our current projects. If anyone has some of these pieces, and can part with them, please contact us!

Thanks again for all the support!

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By in United States,

I did not comprehend the phrase "too much Lego". Could somebody please translate? Does such a phenomenon exist? All kidding aside, this is a very cool project and I hope those of you with "too much Lego" contribute. I'm so stingy with my Lego that I sift through the vacuum canister if I suspect I sucked one up. This could be good therapy for me.

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By in United States,

what is this "too much Lego" you speak of?

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By in United States,

Too much... too much... I don't think I understand the question.

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By in Australia,

I disagree with the sentiment behind the statement that "Many of our community’s neediest, most deserving kids don’t get the opportunity to own LEGO sets of their own". The fact that all of us collect LEGO means that we perceive it as a luxury item, not a basic necessity. Poor kids don't get the opportunity to own luxury items? Of course they don't; so what? There are plenty of cheaper toys available. Even sticks and rocks can provide a surprising amount of entertainment.

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By in Germany,

I was unaware one can have too much LEGO?

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By in Germany,

@Huey1, I strongly disagree with you. I consider it a very basic necessity, it is essential!

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By in United States,

I just sell my unwanted sets at Bricks n Minifigs.

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By in United States,

Thanks for posting this story! I love the idea of recycling unused LEGO to help kids in need. As a former foster parent, I used to wonder why no one thought of recycling toys for these children. This is an exceptional effort created by kind people who seem to have figured out how to help folks with too many bricks give them to children with so few belongings. When a child is moved from home to home, it would be heartwarming to see a few toys in their meager bag of possession. Some children arrive with nothing except the clothes on their backs.

Their model has so much potential that is a pleasure to see them bring joy to children in their area. Hats off to these folks for doing something about this need. (For you folks joking about having too many bricks and kids needing toys, become a foster parent and see how little these children have, and you may realize how silly your jokes may appear to others.)

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By in United States,

@legogal, thanks for the wonderful words. This is exactly why we are doing this. We want these kids to have a durable, long lasting toy of their own; something that can travel; something that offers limitless imaginative possibilities; something that is valuable; and something they can be proud to own.

LEGO fits the bill. The fact that it is a luxury item is the point, these kids have nothing, not even sticks and rocks. With LEGO they have something that gives them credibility with "peers" who have the means to own luxury toys.

May I share your words on our Facebook Page too?

As for all the joking, take it in stride, LEGO and Life is meant to be fun and we should be able to laugh at both once and a while. Everything is Awesome!

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By in United Kingdom,

As a fact, I WAS running out of room, and thinking I DID have too much LEGO...

(Until I remembered the drawer under my bed. :P)

This is a nice idea. Good luck with it! ;-)

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By in United States,

TheGivingBrick
I am a local KC guy and I love what you are doing. Have you considered a Kickstarter page for donations (give $10 get a mug...ect). Also contact The Brick show guys to see if they can help you spread the word. If all of us AFOL just chip in a few bucks then we can really get you funded quickly. I have assembled a box of pieces to send you and I will be making a donation. I wish you all the best success.

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By in United States,

@amacphearson, Thanks for the kind words! We have considered a kickstarter page, and it is on the list once we refine our brand and message. We want to appeal to AFOL like us, and non-LEGO people who want to help kids.

Reaching out to the Brick Show guys is a great idea, we tried to reach out to EvanTubeHD too. If you have a good contact there, could you hook us up?

Are you part of the KC Brick Group that meets at Union Station? We are working to connect with those guys too.

Lastly, thanks for your donation!

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By in Australia,

GivingBrick, I assume you were asking me when you mentioned repeating comments on your Facebook page. Go ahead. However, If you're trying to portray me as some kind of heartless person in an ivory tower, you'd be wrong; I spent more than a year volunteering at an anti-poverty charity.

I see your MO as an inefficient use of resources. If people sold their LEGO to fellow fans and donated the money to a mainstream charity, I believe that would make a bigger difference than giving antiques to kids who will probably think the age of these sets makes them "lame".

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By in United States,

@Huey1, We are sorry, we were actually hoping to share @legogal's comments on my social media site. We are certainly not trying to portray you in a bad light at all, every opinion matters if we all take time to listen.

I am so glad to hear that you volunteer your time for a worthwhile cause, please keep up the great work!

We appreciate your view of our inefficiencies, we totally agree this is a lot of hard work. Then again, charity, to me, means more if we sweat a little. We also love the community we are building around this cause.

Lastly, we are passionate about sustainability and feel that recycling used LEGO is better overall for the environment than introducing even more new LEGO pieces. In addition, not all our sets are antiques, since we get lots of bricks we are able to rebuild many sets that are either in retail stores today, or were in recent years. For example, we gave away the AT-AP Walker 7671 and the Attack Shuttle 8018 from the Star Wars series in 2008-2009. We are currently trying to source the Guardians of The Galaxy Milano set, which is still in stores. So, while some of our sets are old, we try to deliver newer sets too. Quite honestly, these kids get "used" everything, and the way we package our boxed sets they seem very new and shiny to these kids.

Thanks again for your support and opinions.

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By in Germany,

I think it's a great idea. If it only makes one kid happy, it was worth the time.

Can you tell me your Bricklink username? I am happy to give you a coupon for some free bricks. As we just started our business last year it won't be a huge amount but maybe enough to finish some of the sets.

- Nadine (from Steineflut ;-) )

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By in United States,

@Nadana86, our Bricklink user name is TheGivingBrick. You are so generous, thanks so much. We have some specific missing pieces for set we are building, so this may come in real handy!

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By in Germany,

Coupon created :-) Please remind me in your order about this so that I don't charge you shipping costs :)

- Nadine

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