For Easthampton woman, Toy Fund donations keep loved ones’ memories alive

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    Sidney F. Smith, ca. 1962. Detail from a Daily Hampshire Gazette page one story on Monday, Oct. 22, 1962, headlined "Sidney F. Smith Resigns His Post On Commission". (i.e. Northampton License Commission).

Staff Writer
Published: 12/3/2021 6:09:03 PM
Modified: 12/3/2021 6:08:30 PM

EASTHAMPTON — It has been a decade since Susan Royea’s soulmate, Paul Atkinson Sr., died in 2011. Thinking back on Thursday, she remembered his love for Christmas.

“He loved all the decorations and kids,” she said. “That was his holiday that he really liked the most.”

Royea, who lives in Easthampton and was born and raised in Northampton, is one of many donors who already this season have given money to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in memory of someone who has died in years past and present.

Royea donated not only in honor of Atkinson, whom she spent 23 years with, but also in remembrance of her recently deceased brother, Peter Mitchell Ceckowski, and her parents, Ruth and Mitchell. She and a friend, Urszula, were also planning to make a donation to honor a friend of theirs who died around a year and a half ago, Arline Lula.

“I just donate to the toy fund every year for the people who have gone before me,” Royea said.

Royea said that it’s nice to know that people are still honoring their deceased loved ones, remembering them even when they’re no longer around.

As for why she chose the Toy Fund, Royea said the cause is an important one for local children.

“For them to get something at Christmas, there’s a lot of kids who don’t have that,” she said. “They can’t get gifts from people. It’s nice that people are putting themselves out there to help children during the holiday.”

Royea pointed out that there are many people working all year to feed the hungry, clothe the needy and help others. She said those who are able to give during this time of year should remember the spirit of the holiday.

“It’s about giving,” she said. “We’re blessed — any of us able — to help who we can at this time. We’re all God’s children. We just need to do what we can do when we can do it.”

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, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst 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; Blue Marble/Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Once Upon A Child,1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.

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