Our History

Toy Rescue Mission (TRM) was founded by Karol Barkley, a Tacoma business woman, who was inspired by still-useful toys in local thrift stores she felt might be greatly appreciated by underprivileged children in the area. She began distributing toys out of her own home but over the years the mission grew so much it required its own building. Toy Rescue Mission officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1994. We serve families in Pierce County who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. Their stress of providing birthday and Christmas presents to their children are alleviated when they can shop in our toy store without charge.

Because we are nearly 100% volunteer run we rely on our many dedicated volunteers to refurbish the donated toys. They get great satisfaction in helping this segment of our population. And the thousands of donated toys we receive has reduced the amount of waste at the landfill. We are helping to recycle; give volunteers a fulfilling activity; and give joy through toys to thousands of children.

Our mission statement is: To refurbish and recycle gently-used toys for disadvantaged children and seniors in care facilities, while providing meaningful volunteer opportunities for the young-at-heart.

Evaluating Our Success

The success of our programs is established largely through several means, some tangible and other intangible. The tangible results are the detailed records that show increased growth and outreach in the communities we serve:

  • Increased total number of toys we are able to provide to the community.
  • Increased numbers of volunteers participating in our programs: all volunteers are required to document their hours in a logbook; this includes hours worked off-site (at home or at any other facility; i.e. groups performing activities at their locations). At the end of each month, hours are tabulated and kept in a database to be totaled at year's end.
    • Increased exposure (increased public awareness of our services).
    • Increased numbers of children/seniors served: At time of service, each child served is issued a 'tracking form' which documents the following information: child's name, age and gender, 'event' (Christmas, Easter, birthday) and number/type of toys received. This information is placed in a database for compilation and comparison records at year's end.
    • Letters of appreciation/recognition sent to TRM from our recipients (individuals and organizations). The organizations with which we are involved (at this time about 75, but always growing) acknowledge that the provision of these toys allows them to expand their services and outreach in the community!)
  • The intangible results are the words of appreciation and dedication of our volunteers, along with the FUN we are having, and the expressions of joy and gratitude written on the faces of parents and children alike!
  • Increased organizational development to include new and expanded current programs.

Our Founder

Believing that nothing happens by chance, Karol Barkley, took the unfortunate events of her early life and turned them into a favorable outcome. The evidence of that was the creation of a Tacoma-based non-profit organization that has impacted the local community for over 25 years.

As an only child, Karol was born and raised in Kailua, Hawaii. At the age of 10, just 12 days after her father’s death, Karol received a precious gift, a doll, Poor Pitiful Pearl. Her father had purchased it earlier in the year as a Christmas gift, not knowing he wouldn’t be there to give it to her. No one realized at the time the impact that doll was to have in Karol’s adult life!

Two and a half years after losing her father, Karol lost her mother to cancer, and moved to Tacoma, WA to live with her paternal grandparents. Her doll, Pearl, was one of the few possessions she took with her. Karol remained in Tacoma where she later married, and raised two daughters. For most of her adult life, Karol focused on her family. After her daughters grew up and left home, Karol had a 13-year career as a Certified Medical Assistant.

Realizing her career alone was not filling the void created after her daughters left home, Karol searched for a new focus. The comfort and security she had derived from her beloved doll in the years following the death of her parents compelled her to find a means of providing a symbol of comfort to other "uprooted" or needy children. Her beloved Pearl became the inspiration for a new chapter in Karol’s life: the birth of Toy Rescue Mission, an all-volunteer-run non-profit agency. Karol turned her pastime for frequenting thrift stores into what soon became her passion.

Over the years, and with the help of thousands of volunteers, TRM became a successful conduit for recycling "once-loved" toys, while providing the children of Karol’s community with a symbol of comfort and security. Through the volunteer opportunities of TRM, others continue to learn what Karol discovered early-on; that books and toys can communicate without making a sound!

Although Karol retired from her tasks at TRM in 2011, these days she finds life equally as full and rewarding. Karol teamed up with former TRM Newsletter Editor and co-author, Donna Smeall, to become a children’s storybook author. The resulting book, Forever Friends, is adapted from Karol’s early life. It is worth noting that Karol still has her original Poor Pitiful Pearl doll! You can read more about this chapter of Karol’s life here!

Volunteer Inquiries

Web Page: Volunteer

Office Phone

(253) 460-6711

Office Hours

Tuesday | 9:30am-6pm
Wednesday, Thursday | 9:30am-4pm
First and Third Saturdays | 9am-12pm
For all other inquiries, call for appointment

Postal Address

P.O. Box 64547
Tacoma, WA 98464-0547

Street Address and
Donation Drop-off

Toy Rescue Mission
607 S. Winnifred St.
Tacoma, WA 98465
(Across from Tacoma Boys on 6th Ave)

TRM Flickr Feed

Visit our Flickr feed here: TRM Flickr