Toy Fund: Starting ‘a cycle of generosity’

  • A note and drawing that accompanied a toy fund donation made by Aaron and Anabelle Borcea, ages 9 and 11. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

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

For the Gazette
Published: 12/10/2021 9:43:00 AM
Modified: 12/10/2021 9:42:34 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton resident Rachel Markowitz used the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund as an instrument to spread the spirit of giving to her two children this holiday season.

As a relatively new Northampton resident, Markowitz said she reads the Gazette every morning to stay updated on local news. Recently, an article about the Toy Fund caught her eye and she suggested that her children, Anabelle and Aaron Borcea, take the opportunity to contribute.

“I pointed out that we happen to be very fortunate,” Markowitz said, telling her kids that there are children in the city who are not as well off.

After learning about the situation, she said “the kids very eagerly said they wanted to donate.”

A $20 donation to the Toy Fund came straight from Anabelle and Aaron’s respective “piggy banks,” each contributing $10.

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.

Along with the money, the children’s donation included a piece of paper with a colorful drawing by 11-year-old Anabelle and a handwritten note by 9-year-old Aaron that reads, “Dear Toy Fund, we are sending this money because we want other kids to be warm and to be happy this winter.”

“We have a tradition in our family of making homemade cards,” Markowitz said of their work.

“As their parent I’m trying to bring a culture of generosity into our family,” Markowitz explained, as she herself frequently donates to charities.

“It comes from my upbringing,” she said. “My parents were big givers.”

Markowitz also referenced her involvement in the Buddhist community and their tradition of generosity as a contributing factor in her charitable attitude.

Markowitz moved from San Francisco to Northampton last summer with her children and husband, who is originally from western Massachusetts and wanted to come back.

“This toy fund has made us feel like we’re becoming locals,” she said.

Although her family doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of the people who have benefited, Markowitz said the suggestion to donate is part of her mission to give her children a “larger awareness” of the wider world.

This holiday season, it’s important to be “part of this cycle of generosity,” she said. “When you give, it comes back to you.”

CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst verifies families’ eligibility for the toy fund 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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