Northampton firefighters continue long-held tradition of Toy Fund donation

Friday, December 06, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton firefighters union continues its tradition to donating to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund despite the extra expenses its members have borne during the last three years to settle a contract dispute with the city.

Scott Flynn, president of Northampton Firefighters Local 108, said donations to organizations such as the Toy Fund sponsored by the Daily Hampshire Gazette are important to the union’s 64 members, even though they have paid some $45,000 in extra expenses — mostly for lawyers’ fees — related to the new contract.

“Money is kind of tight but people are sensitive to giving,” Flynn said. “It’s something in our hearts. We’re part of the community.”

The union typically votes to send $250 a year to the Toy Fund each December in hopes that families in need can bring a bit of holiday cheer to their children. The union missed last year’s deadline by a few weeks, so its 2012 donation helped kick off this year’s fund. Flynn anticipates members will follow suit again this month with a similar donation, just as they have for as long as he can remember.

“I can’t even remember what drew us to the Toy Fund other than the obvious — it’s for the kids,” Flynn said.

The fund, now in its 81st year, distributes $40 vouchers to eligible families for each child between the ages of 1 to 14.

The firefighters union collects dues every other week from its members and uses the funds to pay for a variety of union-related business, but it also sets aside a portion of the money for charitable donations that go beyond the Toy Fund.

Some involve just donations of money, while others require a bit of volunteer time from firefighters who participate in boot drives for the Muscular Dystrophy Association; a local Relay For Life event; a head-shaving event for St. Baldrick’s Foundation to raise funds for childhood cancer research; a Fight for Air Climb and hot-wing eating contest for the American Lung Association to raise money for lung disease research and education; and bell-ringing for the Salvation Army.

While it has become harder to recruit volunteer participants for the many events, Flynn said most members believe that it just makes sense to give back to the community in which they work and live. The Toy Fund seems to hit home more than most.

“At this time of year, it is the right thing to do,” Flynn said. “It’s a charity we really like and it’s a way to give back.”