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Editorial: Building on history: 87 years of giving through the Sidney F. Toy Fund

  • Sidney F. Smith, ca. 1962.

Published: 11/27/2019 5:29:19 PM

The year was 1933. In Washington, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office. In California, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge. In New Jersey, the nation’s first drive-in theater opened. And here in Northampton, the Gazette established the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, now in its 87th consecutive year.

Some of you have read about the Toy Fund in this newspaper for decades. But for those unfamiliar, it provides vouchers to area families with children who otherwise would go without new toys during the holidays. Also for the 87th consecutive year, we at the Gazette are asking you, our readers, for community support.

The Toy Fund was started by Sidney F. Smith, then the Gazette’s business manager, to help families in need during the Great Depression. Since then, the Gazette has covered the costs associated with the annual drive, with all donations going to recipients in the form of vouchers. The nonprofit organization 18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts, at 59 Interstate Drive in West Springfield, verifies families’ eligibility.

The community has stepped up every year to help. Last year, the Gazette collected over $61,000, and we aim to surpass that amount this year.

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, in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

Since its inception, “the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund has filled a critical need throughout the communities we serve,” says Michael Moses, publisher of the Pioneer Valley Newspapers, including the Gazette. “We could not provide this support without our generous donors, retail partners and agencies that help us identify those in need. We are proud of our collective spirit of giving, but I think it’s important to take this opportunity to also remind ourselves that there are children and families in need all year long.”

Donors often give to remember or honor a family member or friend.

Last year, Richard Fink, who taught chemistry at Amherst College for more than 40 years, gave in honor of his older brother, Larry Fink, a history professor, administrator, and athletic director at Smith College who died in 2009. Richard recalled how Larry taught him how to play baseball at New Rochelle High School in New York, where they grew up. He was 9 then, his brother around 15, and their father had just died unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. “He put a baseball bat in my hand,” Richard Fink said. “He was there for the adversity of our father’s early death. He took on the role of being supportive, and introduced his brother to how the world worked.”

His donation to the Sidney F. Toy Fund came with the note: “Larry Fink, Best Big Brother.”

Also last year, Northampton residents and “circle of care” members Kathy Goos and Barry Werth contributed to the fund in honor of brothers Sudi and Asmani Jumapili, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After spending 16 years in a refugee camp in Burundi, the brothers arrived in Northampton, found work, and were helping eight other family members settle into life in America. While Goos and Werth had made donations to the fund before, last year’s came with a special message about recognizing “all the people who make their way to the United States for a new beginning.”

In the coming days, the Gazette will run stories about why people are giving to the Sidney F. Toy Fund this year. We hope you will be moved to give as well.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 367 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The Toy Box, 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 Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop & Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co. 1584 Dwight St. #1, Holyoke; Children’s Museum at Holyoke, 444 Dwight St., Holyoke.

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.

Let’s make 2019 a historic year for giving.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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