Toy fund endures for family 60-plus years later 

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

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2019 9:25:45 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Sandra Pierce was 9 years old when her father died in 1956, a loss that left her mother in a challenging financial position while raising four children between the ages of 4 and 15 on her own.

Within a year of Charles Pierce’s passing, Pierce recalls that the family was benefiting from the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

“It was a very big deal, even more for my mother,” Pierce said of qualifying for the vouchers, which helped her mother Rose get necessities like slippers and socks for the children, as well as toys and other gifts that would excite them.

“It was nothing major, but she filled the space under the Christmas tree, all because of the Toy Fund,” Pierce said.

One of those presents she still remembers with great fondness. “I got a puzzle one year that I loved,” Pierce 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, in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County. 

18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts at 59 Interstate Drive in West Springfield verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Pierce, who divides her time between Florence and Florida, said that her mother was able to collect Social Security, but only enough to make ends meet. The Toy Fund was an important supplement each holiday season.

“She really didn’t have the money,” Pierce said.  “It was really hard for her as she didn’t have a high school education.”

Through the years, Pierce said she has never forgotten this help and tries to make a donation annually. Her $200 gift this season is in memory of her parents, two of her brothers, Chuck and Ron, and her husband’s parents, Walter and Jessie Mamulski.

In the note she submitted, Pierce offered appreciation for the Gazette keeping the tradition alive. “Thank you for still doing this,” she wrote.

“It’s something I intend to keep doing, I appreciate it so much,” Pierce said.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 367 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 Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop & Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co. 1584 Dwight St. #1, Holyoke; Children's Museum at Holyoke, 444 Dwight St., Holyoke. 

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 through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com. Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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