Several years ago, I discovered our family had an embarrassing problem with stuffed animals. As we were packing up for the big move from St. Louis to Sarasota, I was that mom of five suddenly aware of how profoundly we were affected by materialism. It broke my heart to see no less than ten yard-size trash bags filled with stuffed animals and plushes that my kids had outgrown. Mind you these ten bags were the excess! I don’t even want to tell you how many stuffed animals we ended up moving.

Sadly, I am not the only mother who faces this particular problem. When sharing about this dilemma with fellow mom friends, it became clear that an abundance of stuffed animals was a common problem.  This is likely because ours is a society built on consumerism and comfort. We have all bought into the lie that “things” will improve our quality of life. Too many of us have too many things, so much so that we often buy more things to hold our things! Then, when the things no longer matter, they are simply discarded usually in pursuit of different types of things. 

Birthdays, holidays, and special events roll into each other, literally bumping the previous season off the shelf before the next event even arrives on the calendar. We are encouraged to buy and discard, without much regard for the damage of our consumption. But there is damage to this cycle – to our soul, our pocketbooks, and our planet. Christian stewardship calls us to attend to all of these matters. 

Faced with a dilemma to throw away plushes I could not give away or donate anywhere, I started to explore solutions. There must be something redemptive I could do that would not simply add our unwanted toys to a landfill, which is where 85% of all clothing and textiles end up today even though most of these items are recyclable. My first question was how could we recycle, reuse, repair, and repurpose unwanted stuffed animals?  My next question was how could I use this solution to match my desire to support vulnerable children’s programs?  

re·pur·pose – (rēˈpərpəs) verb –to change [something] so 
that it can be used for a different purpose.

After many years of thinking about this problem and testing different concepts, I’m excited to officially launch a new social business called {Re}Purposed Lives! This organization seeks to support at-risk children and families while working to reduce textile waste through recycling unwanted stuffed animals and plush toys. In this model, stuffed animal components that can be safely repurposed will be sold through our Etsy shop where 100% of the proceeds will be used to fund programs doing the hard and important work of serving vulnerable children. Those materials that cannot be repurposed for resale will be properly prepared and donated to textile recyclers. 

One thing I’ve learned through all my years of advocacy work is that people and groups are looking for a hands-on way to get involved and make a difference.  As {Re}Purposed Lives grows and expands, I envision working with communities to gather stuffed animal donations, hosting recycling partings (I want to call them harvesting parties, but my kids think that may be too extreme) and setting up a “Council of Crafters” to help find more creative ways to recycle unwanted and unused parts. 

How can you get involved? Right now, we are only accepting donations in Sarasota and SW Florida. However, my dream is to expand this innovative and replicable social business across the country in the coming years. Today, you can help support {Re}Purposed Lives in the following three ways:

  • Purchasing recycled products and making our Etsy shop one of your favorites at:
  • Following us on social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter @repurposedlives
  • Connecting with me if you are a community leader, crafter, or recycler.  I need all of your expertise to grow this social business!  You can reach me at

A new website, blog, and many more products are coming soon! There is a lot of work to get done and we are just getting started — one stuffed animal and one child at a time.