City preps for 8th annual holiday toy exchange

  • Jenny Boas of Florence sorts through stuffed animals looking for gifts for her twin 6-year-olds last December during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 11/29/2018 11:39:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For the eighth year, Northampton’s Holiday Toy Exchange will help families in need give their children toys for the holidays.

“It’s kind of like a giving flash mob,” said Susan Waite, the city’s waste reduction coordinator.

She said that a couple hundred people have attended each of the events over the last few years. And the toys?

“We get a boatload of toys,” she said.

The event is run nearly entirely by volunteers, and is co-sponsored by the Northampton Department of Public Works and its ReUse Committee and by Northampton Public Schools/Coordinated Family and Community Engagement.

Those wishing to donate used toys can do so from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the cafeteria of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. Toys should be clean and complete.

“They need to be gently used,” said Waite.

She said that dirty toys and large quantities of jumbled small toys are particularly difficult to give away. Additionally, Waite said that a number of newer toys are not as well made as older models, and that durability can be an issue. As such, she suggests that donors carefully vet what they bring.

Waite said that while stuffed animals are accepted, they must be in very good condition.

Musical instruments, dolls, books, electronic toys, video games, and baby toys are just some of the items that are being sought — and which can be picked up.

The event itself takes place on Saturday, Dec. 8 in Smith Vocational’s cafeteria. Donors and those families in need are invited in advance through the school district to shop for as many toys as they can carry to their car from 9 to 10 a.m. Then from 10 to 11 a.m., shopping is made available to the general public, and there is no limit as to what can be taken. Shoppers will have to access the cafeteria from its rear parking lot.

“Most of it goes very, very quickly,” said Waite.

The event used to go until noon, until it was determined that most of the toys were gone within two hours.

Waite said that the event is not for resellers or antique dealers.

“It’s designed to provide free toys to local children,” she said.

It’s also not for the kids themselves, with only securely strapped infants allowed inside.

Some of the flashier items will also be pulled out to be raffled off, and donors and needy families are given raffle tickets to participate in these raffles.

In addition to helping children get toys, the event also keeps them out of landfills.

“We want to make sure that toys are used until they’re not usable,” Waite said.

While the event is currently not restricted to Northampton residents, Waite said it may become so in the future.

Those interested in volunteering at future ReUse Committee events can email Waite at Additionally, Waite is looking for social service organizations that can help identify Northampton families in need.

Bera Dunau can be reached at


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