Editorial: Toy Fund depends on community support 

Published: 11/22/2017 6:29:34 PM

For the 85th consecutive year, the Daily Hampshire Gazette is appealing for community support of its Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, which provides Christmas gifts to area children who otherwise would go without during the holidays.

The Toy Fund has helped 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 donations to go to recipients in the form of vouchers.

The community has responded every year as the need remains great. Last year, donations totaled $65,806, and more than 1,400 vouchers worth $40 each were distributed to area children between the ages of 1 and 14. This year, parents may use the vouchers through Dec. 31 to buy toys and/or clothes at nine participating merchants in Northampton, Amherst, Hadley, South Hadley and Greenfield.

Michael Rifanburg, publisher of the Pioneer Valley newspapers, including the Gazette, says he views the Toy Fund as part of a community newspaper’s mission. “The Toy Fund fills a growing need in communities we serve. We could not provide this in Hampshire County without generous donors, retail partners and agencies that help us identify those in need.

“What touches me the most is the donor today who once benefited from the Toy Fund as a child,” Rifanburg says.

Many donors give in memory of a beloved relative or friend. That was the case last year, when members of Charlotte “Bunny” Elliott’s family asked that donations in her memory be made to the Toy Fund. She left Vermont at age 16 in 1946, arrived in Northampton and met Bob Elliott, a sailor on leave. They were married two years later, settled on Rust Avenue and worked nearby at the former Northampton State Hospital. He died in 1995.

Bunny died at age 85 on Jan. 15, 2016, in Cooley Dickinson Hospital. It was natural that her family suggested donations to the Toy Fund, said her daughter, Sharon Elliott. “She just loved kids. She grew up in the Depression and didn’t have anything. That really touched her. But every year she could, she made sure she donated.”

Other donors are children who want to help their less fortunate peers. Last December, the Student Leadership Team at the R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence sponsored a pajama day fundraiser to encourage donations to the Toy Fund.

Principal Sarah Madden said the team is made up of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students who volunteer to organize school activities benefiting the community. They suggested $1 donations to the Toy Fund, and some students gave as much as $50. A total of $300 was raised. “We like to give back,” said student Lucy Braudis.

That spirit is as important today as it was in 84 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, which are available at the Gazette and social service agencies throughout Hampshire County, are reviewed by Berkshire Children & Families in Hadley which verifies eligible families. Applications must be returned by Monday.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made online. Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Please consider supporting the Toy Fund as it helps spread the cheer of the holiday season to children who are most in need.

Stores participating this year are A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; and World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.


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