Editorial: Holiday gift programs need community support

  • Holiday wreaths decorated by local businesses, shown Nov. 22, will be raffled by CareOne at Northampton to benefit the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 11/25/2016 10:58:44 PM

For the 84th year, the Daily Hampshire Gazette is appealing for support of its Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, which provides Christmas gifts to area children who otherwise would have few, if any, holiday presents.

Donors responded in 2015 by giving $77,830, and 1,519 vouchers worth $40 per child were redeemed. That was a turnaround from a three-year period of declining donations starting in 2012.

Meanwhile, the need has remained steady as typically between 1,600 and 2,000 vouchers are distributed to benefit children between the ages of 1 and 14. Parents may use the vouchers this year at seven participating merchants to buy toys and/or clothes.

The reasons for giving are many, and some donors do so year after year because of their concern for children. Some people contribute even after they move from the area.

Dr. Ronald Grimm gave for the first time in 2015 — more than two decades after moving from Leeds to work in New Hampshire. While in Northampton, Grimm was a surgeon at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Grimm said he was moved to donate $5,000 after reading an appeal for money and recognizing that while his grandchildren all enjoy Christmas, the holidays would not be joyful for many children without the Toy Fund.

For some in the community, annual donations to the Toy Fund are a group effort. For instance, employees of the Florence Casket Co. have been contributing for decades, and the company matches what the workers give. Last year, the combined total was $1,400 as virtually all of the company’s 50 or so employees contributed.

That’s the kind of spirit that has allowed the Toy Fund to help families in need since 1933, when it was established by Sidney F. Smith, then the Gazette’s business manager. Since then, the Gazette has covered the costs associated with the annual drive, allowing all the donations to go to recipients in the form of vouchers.

Michael Rifanburg, who this year became publisher of the Pioneer Valley Newspapers, including the Gazette, said of the Toy Fund, “It’s really a team effort here, just as we try to encourage it to be a community effort.”

He continued, “This is a program that is locally driven, locally funded and applies to people in our communities. We’re thankful for volunteers and the effort of so many people who help bring a smile to many children’s faces this holiday season.”

That is as true today as it was 83 years ago when Smith recognized the need to help people who had lost so much during the Great Depression and had little left to spend on Christmas presents for their children.

Families who live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Leverett, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately are eligible for assistance. Applications are available at the Gazette, and they are reviewed by Berkshire Children & Families which verifies eligible families. Those applications are due Monday.

Stores participating this year are A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, One Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Wilson’s Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; and Target, 367 Russell St., Hadley.

Donations may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette at 115 Conz St. in Northampton, 01060, or made online at www.gazettenet.com.

There are other opportunities to help families in need during the holidays.

The Amherst Survival Center for the third year is seeking donations of new children’s books, games and winter accessories (including gloves, mittens, hats, scarves and neck warmers) for families with children through age 18 who use the food pantry. The center at 138 Sunderland Road is seeking donations through Dec. 22, and families will be able to select books, a game and a winter accessory beginning Thursday.

And the Easthampton Toy Program, sponsored by the city’s municipal offices and Helping Hand Society, is in its 23rd year in memory of former town administrator John Chmura. Donations may be made at the Municipal Building, 50 Payson Ave. Easthampton families who need toys for their children ages 10 and under are asked to call the mayor’s office at 529-1470 by Thursday.

Please consider supporting these programs as they help spread the cheer of the holiday season to those most in need.




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115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
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