A lesson in generosity: Belchertown siblings donate to toy fund in recognition of their teachers

  • Sidney F. Smith, ca. 1962. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2021 2:18:57 PM
Modified: 12/6/2021 2:18:29 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Around the holidays, teachers often receive little tokens of appreciation from their students. Some may receive a mug that cements their status as the “best,” while others may get a gift card to a coffee shop or office supply store. But a handful of teachers at the Jabish Brook Middle School in Belchertown have something much different to look forward to at this time of year.

For several years now, the Fisher children have been donating money to the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in recognition of their teachers. Together, the Fishers — Charlie, 12, Leo, 10, and Quinn, 6 — donated $50 in recognition of “Mrs. Schliemann, Mrs. Stanek, Mrs. Ingram, Mrs. Lavigne, Mrs. O’Brien, and all the teachers at JBMS,” to thank them for their hard work and dedication.

“We started doing this to recognize our teachers and show them that they’re helping us and they’re not just being like every other teacher in the world,” said Charlie. “I think they enjoy being recognized for what they do and the part where they’re donating funds to a cause. In the past two years we’ve had COVID, our teachers have worked especially hard with remote learning. They’ve had to do brand new things. Some have never used technology before and they deserve to be recognized.”

Erica Fisher, the children’s mother, said that she had found information about the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund online a few years ago and remembered that it was a fund that her mother donated to when she was growing up in Amherst. She said she’s taught her children about recognizing people in her community and discussed different ways to give back.

“It’s a nice way to be able to recognize all of their hard work and dedication to teaching and honoring them in a bigger way than just a small ornament or a tangible item,” she said.

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

With the donation going to help local families, Erica Fisher is hopeful that her children will carry on the tradition if they have children of their own someday. The gesture seems to have made an impact on the Fisher children as Charlie said he would like his donation to make a difference in the lives of “at least five different people.”

“We wanted to donate money so that kids in need who might not get presents can get some,” said Charlie. “Everyone alive should get Christmas presents. Even if you are a poor person, you should still get a present that makes you happy. Everyone on earth deserves to be happy.”

CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst verifies families’ eligibility for the toy fund, and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

The following stores are participating in the toy fund this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble/Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Once Upon A Child,1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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