Northampton’s Holiday Toy Exchange marks seventh year 

  • Volunteer Jessica Tanner of Northampton sorts through leftover items for her children, ages 2 and 4, on Dec. 9, 2017, during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Used board games are displayed on Dec. 9, 2017, during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Laura Donaghy, left, Kim Warnock and Gina Doyle, all of Turners Falls, load toys into a vehicle on Dec. 9, 2017, during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Ali Pinschmidt of Haydenville browses during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton on Dec. 9, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Stuffed animals lie in wait for new owners at the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Kim Warnock of Turners Falls, left, and Ali Pinschmidt of Haydenville carry out toys and games for their loved ones during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton on Dec. 9, 2017.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jenny Boas of Florence sorts through potential gifts for her twin 6-year-olds on Saturday at the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Volunteer Chuck Duryee of Florence carries a bin of toys and books out to the parking lot for someone who selected the items during the Holiday Toy Exchange at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton.Dec. 9, 2017.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

For the Gazette
Published: 12/9/2017 2:11:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The cafeteria at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School was packed with people and toys on Saturday morning for the seventh annual Holiday Toy Exchange, an event that continues to grow each year.

“There’s so much wealth and so much sharing here,” Youme Nguyen Ly, a shopper and former volunteer, said. “These services make it possible to have a wonderful childhood here and to have a wonderful parenting experience here. There’s so much support.”

The event helps extend a toy’s life span and has become an important source of holiday gifts for parents on tight budgets, according to the Department of Public Works, which coordinates the toy exchange with the Reuse Committee. The event is co-sponsored by the Northampton Public Schools and Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) through grants from the state Department of Early Education.

On Friday evening, donations of clean, functioning, and complete toys, books, and games were collected in the cafeteria and organized by volunteers. Collected toys were first offered to donors and residents who were referred by community agencies early Saturday morning, before being offered to the public from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

“We get in touch with families who maybe don’t have toys to donate but are in need,” Erika Frank, the early childhood outreach specialist and CFCE coordinator with Northampton Public Schools, said. “First and foremost we don’t want these toys to end up in a landfill.”

Frank helps to organize outreach for the event, including passing out flyers at schools and community organizations and publishing information on Facebook.

Susan Waite, the waste reduction coordinator at the Northampton DPW, said the Holiday Toy Exchange has grown to include people from communities outside of Northampton who donate, and that organizers may have to eventually limit the event to Northampton residents only.

In addition to used toys, Waite said that the number of new and extremely popular items that are donated has increased. These toys were raffled to attendees before 10 a.m. to give as many people as possible a fair shot at winning them. This year, over 30 items were raffled off, the most to date.

One raffle winner, Chardelie Gelin, won an unwrapped Melissa & Doug toy set, including a set of play kitchenware and a set of trains. Gelin plans to give the toys to her 3-year-old twins.

“A lot of us are not fortunate enough to have enough money to pay bills and buy toys for the kids, so it’s important,” Gelin said of the Toy Exchange.

A grant through the Department of Environmental Protection’s Recycling Dividend Rewards program partially covers the cost of the event, including advertising, and custodial and police services. The Holiday Toy Exchange is otherwise funded by donations and is staffed primarily by volunteers.




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