Northampton Lions Club’s toy fund donation the biggest ever

  • Northampton Lions Club President Maryann Bankman, center, presents a check for the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund to Pat Maleno, left, of the Daily Hampshire Gazette at the Gazette’s office in Northampton on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2018 9:58:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton Lions Club has once again stepped up and donated to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, though this year the longtime donor has upped its contribution to $1,500 – its biggest ever.

The club has been donating to the Toy Fund for more than 20 years, and last year donated $1,000.

“This is the larger check,” Northampton Lions Club President Maryann Bankman said from the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Conz Street office where she and other Lions Club members delivered the gift on Tuesday.

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Sidney F. Smith 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.

Although the Lions Club’s principal charitable work revolves around vision, with the Lions famously donating refurbished eyeglasses to the developing world, Bankman said that the club likes to do, “a local thing to make children happy.”

“We would just love to see the smile on their face on Christmas morning, when they open a present they might not otherwise have,” she said.

Pat Maleno, the business manager at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder, praised the Northampton Lions Club for its generous contribution to the Toy Fund.

“$1,500 is great,” Maleno said, adding that the Lions thinking about local children year after year, “touches my heart.”

Bankman’s husband, Tom Bankman, is the club’s “Lion Tamer,” meaning he’s responsible for the club’s property. He’s been a member for about 40 years.

“My good friend Mike Cahillane brought me in,” Tom Bankman said. “He thought I’d be a good member and I’ve tried to be.”

Bankman estimated that he collects more than 1,000 eyeglasses a year for donations.

The Lions Club raises the money it donates in the community through fundraising projects, and Tom Bankman said that all money raised through fundraising by the Northampton Lions Club ultimately gets donated.

“We can’t keep our money. We give it out,” Maryann Bankman said.

The Lions’ next fundraising project is its $100 raffle. Each ticket costs $100, with participants having a 1-6 odds of winning at least $150 and a grand prize of $5,000. Tickets are on sale now, and only 200 will be sold.

Maryann Bankmann also said the club is looking for members, and people are welcome to fill out an application.

“We serve in many different ways,” she said of the club’s work.

To be eligible for the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, 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

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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115 Conz Street
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