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‘Korpita’s Kids’ keep on giving to Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund

  • Johanna Korpita, pictured here in 2016 when she was a second-grade teacher at Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg, years ago started a program in which children in her elementary school classes donate to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. She has since retired, but the program lives on at the school. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — For three decades, Johanna Korpita encouraged children in her elementary school classes in Williamsburg to donate to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund and the Hilltown Food Pantry. Though she retired in 2017, Korpita hasn’t stopped donating to either cause.

“Everybody watches out for one another in the Hilltowns,” said Korpita. “Nobody looks down on anyone because they need help.”

Korpita taught for 39 years, 32 of which she spent in Williamsburg teaching first and second grade at the Anne T. Dunphy School.

“It was a wonderful place to teach,” she said.

Korpita said that around 1986 or 1987, shortly after coming to teach in Williamsburg, she started a Caring and Sharing unit in her classroom. The program involved students collecting donations for the toy fund and food pantry.

“Second-graders really step up,” she said.

Korpita said that the program also helped with writing and math skills, as students keep track of food collected for the food pantry and how many children could be helped by the money they raised for the toy fund.

Korpita said that the program was also designed to help make the holiday season less about getting presents, and to encourage empathy and learning to care for others.

She also notes how students record how they earned money for the fund, including such things as finding two pennies on a driveway.

“Any amount was acceptable,” Korpita said. “It was just a wonderful experience.”

This year, Korpita gave $120 to the fund in the name of all “Korpita’s Kids” and their friends and families for all they did for the program. She wrote that she hoped her donation would help to brighten a few children’s lives and the inspire some of her former students to donate.

In terms of children who were less fortunate in her classes, Korpita said that other children knew and wanted to help them, and that they were not shamed.

“Really, not at all,” Korpita said. “What matters to them (the other children) is making someone feel better.”

Korpita even addressed the power of Santa Claus, explaining to the children that although Santa can give children one or two presents, he cannot provide them with a “boatload.”

Following Korpita’s retirement, first grade teacher Rita Luce took over the collection for the toy fund last year, and the school has continued the food drive this year.

“That makes me feel very happy,” said Korpita.

She’s also doing a food drive for the Hilltown Food Pantry, and encourages people to drop donations off at her home at 15 Strong Road, Southampton.

“Anybody can drop things off,” 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.

Berkshire Children & Families at 220 Russell St., Suite 200 in Hadley, MA 01035, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

The following stores are 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 ToyBox, 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; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

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.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.