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Editorial: Give to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund this holiday season

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Now in its 86th consecutive year, the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, for those unfamiliar, provides vouchers to area families with children who otherwise would go without new toys during the holidays. Also for the 86th consecutive year, the Daily Hampshire Gazette is asking you, our readers, for community support.

The Toy Fund’s history dates back to 1933, when it was established by Sidney F. Smith, then the Gazette’s business manager, to help families in need during the Depression. Since then, the Gazette has covered the costs associated with the annual drive, with all donations going to recipients in the form of vouchers.

The community has stepped up every year to help. Last year, the Gazette collected $64,700 and issued between 1,400 and 1,500 vouchers.

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. Berkshire Children & Families at 220 Russell St. in Hadley verifies families’ eligibility.

“The Toy Fund makes the holiday season happier for children, and what could be better than that?” says Aaron Julien, publisher of the Pioneer Valley Newspapers, including the Gazette, and president and CEO of Newspapers of New England Inc. “Like the Warm the Children fund up at the Recorder in Greenfield, which supplies coats to children in need in Franklin County, the Toy Fund is one of the ways we, and our readers, give back to the community.”

Donors often give in memory of a beloved family member or friend. That was the case with Charlotte Meryman of Williamsburg who began donating to the Toy Fund in the name of her brother, Henry Meryman, a tradition that has continued since his 2013 death.

“The Henry I hold in my heart is the exuberant brother of my childhood, bursting with Christmas excitement,” Charlotte Meryman said. “I know he’d be thrilled to know his legacy includes sharing that joy with a whole new generation.”

Other donors are kids themselves, like Williamsburg’s Sarah Hultman, 10, who’s been saving up her allowance to chip in. For the past five years, Sarah has donated from $20 to $30 to the Toy Fund, in addition to other organizations such as the Humane Society and the Northampton Survival Center.

“I like to help other kids, and I like to make them happy,” she said. “I donate money to help animals, too. I like to help everyone and everything.”

Recipients of vouchers may use them at the following stores  participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; Faces, 175 Main St. Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; and World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to The Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through GazetteNet at gazettenet.com.

As of Nov. 21, Marylou Spaulding, site coordinator at Berkshire Children & Families, said she’d already received hundreds of applications, which gives a sense of the need in the community. “People coming in to apply are always so grateful,” she said.

Let’s make 2018 a banner year for giving.