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Berkshire Children and Families staff pull out their wallets to help Toy Fund effort

  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.

    Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.

    Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.

    Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.

    Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.

    Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.

    Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.

    Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.

    Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.

    Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.
  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.
  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.
  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.
  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.
  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.
  • Cathy Lawlor, a volunteer at Berkshire Children and  Families, processes toy fund applications Monday morning.
  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.
  • Marylou Spaulding, the site coordinator at Berkshire Children and Families, helps with the collection of donations for the toy fund, at her desk Monday morning.

— Every year around the holidays, Mary Lou Spaulding puts an envelope in the break room at Berkshire Children and Families on Russell Street and adds a note inviting employees to slip a donation into the envelope for the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Last December, when the donations were tallied, the envelope contained $191. Because the contribution arrived at the Gazette too late to be included in the 2011 list, it was acknowledged in the first Toy Fund donor list of this season, published Nov. 26. The Gazette-sponsored fund, now in its 80th year, helps struggling families around the holidays. As of mid week, $6,695 had been collected.

Berkshire Children and Families (formerly Children’s Aid and Family Services) has been associated with the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund almost since the fund’s inception, working with the Gazette to process applications from local parents seeking help to buy holiday gifts for their children.

Spaulding, a Huntington resident, said she believes it is important for the organization’s employees to participate in the Toy Fund.

“It’s kids in Hampshire County. You’re helping families that you see every day,” Spaulding said. “Our name is on the Toy Fund application. We feel we should be donating, too.”

Named after a former longtime business manager at the paper, the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund was established amid the Great Depression. Today, it distributes $40 vouchers for each child ages 1 to 14 in eligible families.

The donation by Berkshire Children and Families was made in honor of the approximately 15 people who participate in the nonprofit’s Parental Aid Volunteer Effort, or PAVE. Each week they make home visits to parents dealing with high levels of stress to provide support and offer tips on parent education.

“We appreciate them so much,” Spaulding said in a recent telephone interview.

Carolyn Mower Burns, Berkshire Children and Families’ president and CEO, went even further.

“As a nonprofit, we couldn’t do the work we do without volunteers,” Burns said. “It’s wonderful that there are volunteers that dedicate themselves to work with families every week for months.”

The program requires a substantial time commitment from the volunteers, Burns said. In addition to family visits, they are required to attend trainings.

Berkshire Children and Families, which has headquarters in Pittsfield, was founded in 1887 and offers early childhood care and education; adoption and foster care; and parenting and family literacy education, among other services.

Burns said that it is an indication of the quality of the people at the organization that they give so generously to the Toy Fund each year.

“As a nonprofit, our staff is not paid like business executives,” she said. “They all work very hard and this is above and beyond. They all want to give back to their community. It’s very inspiring to me.”

Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies, with Berkshire Children and Families verifying the families’ income eligibility. Families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Eligible families may redeem the Toy Fund certificates at participating local retailers through Dec. 31. The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, Northampton; Deals & Steals, Northampton; Faces, Northampton; F.J. Rogers, Florence; JCPenney, Hadley; Mountain Goat, Northampton; The Toy Box, Amherst; Wilson’s Dept. Store, Greenfield; and Target, Hadley.

The Gazette covers all administrative costs of the Toy Fund.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 115 Conz St., Northampton, MA 01060 or the Gazette offices at 67 Main St., Easthampton, or 9 East Pleasant St., Amherst.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

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