SPRINGFIELD – Christmas decorations have started to appear in stores and toy catalogs have begun arriving in homes where children are using markers to circle all of the things they want under the tree on Christmas morning.
But, all is not bright for many families in Western Massachusetts when the holidays can mean only added expenses to already tight budgets.
For the 97th year Toy for Joy will work to make the holidays a little bit easier for parents and a lot more fun for children through the charitable campaign which provides toys and books to children who may not get any other gifts this year.
“We are so excited to meet these families and help brighten their holiday,” says Danielle LaTaille, social services director for the Salvation Army Citadel in Springfield. Toy for Joy is a collaboration by the Salvation Army with The Republican, El Pueblo Latino and MassLive. This year’s campaign hopes to raise $150,000 by Christmas Day.
This year they are joined by media partners at Reminders Publishing and The Westfield News. Toy for Joy provides toys and books to children in need in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.
Community partners include the Reading Success by 4th Grade Initiative, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, Pride Stores and, for the first time this year, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi.
“A lot of the kids (who) benefit from this great cause are the children of folks that we serve inside of our facility unfortunately, so helping to provide a good holiday season makes me feel good,” says Cocchi. “Hopefully, the kids will report back to their parents who are in custody that they received some gifts. This is a partnership we are proud to be a part of.”
For many decades prior to Cocchi taking office and since then, the sheriff’s department contributed annually to the campaign with a donation from the inmates’ commissary fund. In recent years, those donations have been $5,000, and Cocchi said his team decided to up the effort to help Toy for Joy.
Cocchi said he and his team is encouraging its many partners to contribute financially to support the effort and will also be donating new toys and games to add to the books and toys already purchased for distribution this year.
Said LaTaille, in expressing gratitude to the campaign’s partners, “I feel like everything is just coming together this year, and I think in part it’s because these organizations see the need there is in the community.”
Over the past three years, Toy for Joy has faced significant shortfalls to meet its annual goals. All of the money raised during the coming weeks will pay the bills for the toys which must be purchased in advance.
“As we prepare for the 97th year of Toy for Joy, it’s very exciting to add such a wonderful new community partner, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi. The sheriff understands how special and how important getting these toys and books into the hands of children in need is,” said Cynthia G. Simison, assistant to the publisher and managing editor of The Republican.
Simison added that The Republican and the Salvation Army are also grateful for the continued support of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation and Pride Stores.
“Together with the Davis Foundation and Pride Stores, we all believe children’s literacy is a key to the future success of our children and our families,” Simison said. “The simple step to ensure every child receives an age-appropriate book, along with at least one new toy, helps ensure Toy for Joy can have a lasting effect in the lives of the families we help.”
Pride Stores will be asking customers at its locations in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut to help contribute to Toy for Joy by going into any Pride in the area and purchasing a $1, $5 or $10 donation card for Toy for Joy.
The Davis foundation is marking its third year partnering with Toy for Joy, helping ensure there is a book for every child.
Contributions may be mailed with the coupon which accompanies this story to The Republican, 1860 Main St., Springfield, MA, 01101.