Toy Fund Vault: Birthday boy’s gratitude brings donations for other children

  • Sidney F. Smith, ca. 1962.

Published: 11/28/2022 7:19:49 PM
Modified: 11/28/2022 7:19:34 PM

Editor’s note: Periodically this holiday season the Gazette will feature stories from our archives that highlight the generous spirit that the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund brings out in people.

Children are often the most poignant when it comes to giving for the holidays. Today we share a story from the Gazette’s Dec. 12, 2009, edition about a then 5-year-old’s birthday wish.

NORTHAMPTON — A comment by little James Felder at Thanksgiving dinner inspired his parents Rosemary McNaughton and Gary Felder to give to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

“He spontaneously said, ‘I’m thankful that people who have money can give money to those who don’t have money,’” recalled his mom.

He was just shy of 5 at the time — his birthday tolls on Dec. 7 — and among other things his parents were flabbergasted at the perfect sentence structure of the comment. They were impressed with the sentiment behind it as well, pleased that he had fully embraced the concept of giving that they encourage at their home in Florence where they have lived since 2006.

At holiday time, they celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. However, all year long, as part of their Jewish tradition, the family puts aside a small amount of money into a tzedakah box to be given to a charity. Tzedakah, translated as charity but from the root word meaning justice, refers to the religious obligation to give.

“It is helpful for children to introduce them to the idea of charity,” said McNaughton. It certainly caught on at their house.

What the tzedakah box looks like varies in each home. In theirs, it is a blue cookie jar. Usually they give its contents to the Survival Center.

After James made his Thanksgiving proclamation, the family wanted something more specific and chose the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

James gets lots of gifts this time of year, not only because his family celebrates both Ha-nukkah and Christmas but also because his birthday is in December. So the invitations they sent out for James’ 5th birthday party stated “No gifts please.”

Friends were asked to instead make a donation to the Toy Fund, which seemed appropriate given that the money is used by families in need to buy presents for their children around the holidays. The couple had done this once before when James was about the age of his little sister, Cecelia, but he doesn’t remember it.

On Tuesday McNaughton delivered the $37 that was collected during the party to the Gazette’s offices in person. Someone else donated online McNaughton said, but she doesn’t know how much. She also received a check today for $40 that will soon be on its way to the Toy Fund. She’s not sure what the total will be, but she’s hoping people will remember to put James’ name to the memo.

This is one gift that will keep on growing. “We wanted to share the joy,” said McNaughton.

What does James have to say about this? Quite simply, “It’s good.”

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 $50 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.

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; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., 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., and 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.


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