‘Better than a box of chocolates’: Toy fund donations honor ‘selfless’ teachers

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

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2020 1:06:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — About 20 years ago, Stephanie Moynihan would receive toy fund vouchers to help with buying Christmas gifts as a single mom. Now, she donates every year to help families in need and honor others who play a role in raising kids in the community — their teachers.

“I usually always donate them in honor of my children's teachers in lieu of a little candy or your typical gift that you get for teachers,” said Moynihan, a Northampton resident. Donating to the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in their name “is super fun, because you can put a little message in the newspaper and they’ll see it in that section,” Moynihan said.

“My kids loved it, and the teachers loved it,” she added. “It was great.”

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

18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts at 59 Interstate Drive in West Springfield verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Moynihan recalled the toy fund as a resource that made a lasting impact on her and her children when she was a beneficiary.

“It was amazing because I obviously couldn’t really afford a ton of stuff and I especially couldn’t afford to shop in cute little local stores,” she said, “so it enabled me to go to the stores that I would not normally shop at, and it was really fun.”

At the time, those were stores such as Mulberry Tree in Thornes Marketplace and  A2Z Science & Learning Toy Store. While Mulberry Tree has since closed, Moynihan said she still frequents A2Z. 

When donating to the toy fund herself, Moynihan chose to focus on teachers “because teachers are just so selfless and they love their kids so much,” she said. “It’s giving back to the kids that they probably teach and probably know, and I feel that that was better than a box of chocolates.”

In 2019, she dedicated her donation to Bridge Street Elementary School first grade teacher Patty Dubiel.

This local focus is part of what makes the Toy Fund special, Moynihan said.

“You’re helping children in our communities, and everything starts at home,” she 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: 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; 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 & Magical Child Toy Store, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. #1, Holyoke. 

Donations to the Toy Fund may be mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com. Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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