Why City Councilor John Thorpe gives to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund

  • JOHN THORPE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2019 10:29:48 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For John Thorpe, giving to charity and volunteering are just a part of life.

“It’s important to help others in need,” Thorpe said Monday. “Especially around the holidays, it can be tough on people.”

Those who are unable to give financially can look into volunteering, he added: “It’s not always about money.”

Thorpe, 48, who was recently elected to the Northampton City Council, has been giving to charity for many years, he said. But it was only last year that he started giving to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, after learning about it from a friend.

A probation officer in Northampton District Court, Thorpe grew up in western Massachusetts and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Cambridge College. Known by many as JT, Thorpe said he looks at various organizations throughout the year that serve the community.

“I believe that the Sidney F. Smith Fund does just that with helping children and families in need,” he said.

He also said that it is important to lead by example and that children will someday be leaders themselves.

In the past, Thorpe has donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County and Community Action Pioneer Valley.

Last year, he volunteered at the Northampton Winter Craft Fair at Northampton High School to Benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.

He’s going to try to volunteer at this year’s fair as well, which will take place Dec. 7 and 8 at NHS, and he encourages others to volunteer there as well.

He also encourages people to donate to the Toy Fund.

“No matter how small, anything that they can give would be greatly appreciated by that toy fund, I feel,” he 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.

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.

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




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