Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund kicks off 89th year

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

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2021 9:20:10 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Even in the face of a worldwide pandemic in 2020, donors stepped up, in record-breaking fashion, to support the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

After raising $82,376 last year, hundreds of area families will again benefit during the Toy Fund’s 89th year.

Individuals, families, groups and organizations that contribute to the Toy Fund illustrate the generosity of people that helps to put smiles on the faces of children in Hampshire and southern Franklin counties, says Gazette Publisher Shawn Palmer.

“Your money will help a local family shop in a local store to ensure that a local child has a gift to open this year,” Palmer said. “There are no overhead or administrative fees that will reduce the value of your contribution. The Toy Fund represents the true spirit of the community.”

At The Clinical & Support Options — The Bridge Family Resource Center in Amherst, where families’ applications are verified, Program Director Jennifer Kimball hears firsthand the appreciation for the vouchers, each worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14.

“Many were repeat participants, utilizing the fund for several years and others were new only learning about it for the first time this year,” Kimball said, adding that The Bridge was thrilled to be a part of the event and looks forward to helping with the Toy Fund for years to come.

Geoffrey Oldmixon, associate vice president of Marketing & Development for CSO, said that direct interaction with families is part of the mission of the nonprofit community behavioral health agency, and the Toy Fund fits in well will this.

“The Amherst (Family Resource Center) provides free programming and supports to any family in the area,” Oldmixon said. “So, being able to help assuage some of the holiday-related anxiety has been beneficial.”

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began as a way to help families in need during the Depression, continuing to meet contemporary demands through the distribution of about 1,200 vouchers.

Palmer said the Gazette is proud to carry on the annual tradition since 1933.

Pat Maleno, business manager for the Gazette and Greenfield Recorder, said that the record-setting year comes at a time of greater need.

“Donating to the Sidney Smith Toy Fund is such a worthwhile cause because you are helping children right here in our own community,” Maleno said.

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, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Organizations like the Northampton Lions Club have made a tradition of donating, and for some families, the gift has become generational.

Amherst residents Karen and Brian O’Connor have donated for many years, now making their gifts in memory of their parents, Timothy J. and Agnes M. O’Connor and Leo F. and Cecelia S. Sikoski.

“Our parents would be pleased that the money would be given to families in need as they also donated money years ago,” Karen O’Connor said.

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; and Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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