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Around The Grange
Toy Fund gift memorializes recently deceased Mass Grangers

By Rebecca Everett, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Massachusetts (12/1/11)

  DECEMBER 1, 2011 --

The Hillside Pomona Grange of Massachusetts is committed to being neighborly and helping the community. So it's no surprise that in a quest to honor Grange members who died over the past year, they reach into their pockets to help the children of their community.

Every year at the end of November, the Chesterfield-based Grange makes a donation to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, which helps buy presents for children in Hampshire and parts of Franklin counties. This year, its $50 donation helped push the tally raised to date to $2,080.

Pomona Grange treasurer Janet Martin said she wasn't sure exactly how long the group has been supporting the Toy Fund, but said it was at least as long as she has been a member - 46 years.

The Gazette-sponsored Toy Fund is in its 79th year, which means the Grange has been donating for well over half that time. The program gives eligible families $40 vouchers redeemable at participating local stores for each child from age 1 to 14. The fund aims to raise $75,000 this year to cover the cost of roughly 1,800 vouchers it expects to distribute. The Gazette and Berkshire Children and Families cover the costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Martin said donating to the Toy Fund is a kind of bittersweet tradition that allows the Grange to contribute to a worthy local charity in honor of deceased Grange members.

"We kind of joke about it, saying, 'We are remembering our Grange brothers and sisters who have gone on to the great Grange up above," she said.

Martin, of Cummington, said there is no question that the memorialized members would approve of the gesture, since helping your neighbors is a value every Grange member shares. "With Grange, we do a lot of community service. It's a big part of who we are, and we always want to help out the children, especially this time of year," she said.

The following stores participate in the effort: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St.., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 76 Pleasant St., Northampton; Faces, 175 Main St., Northampton; F.J. Rogers, 3 Main St., Florence; Peebles Dept. Store, 2 College Highway, Southampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley; Mountain Goat, 189 Main St., Northampton; Target, Route 9, Hadley; The Toy Box, 201 North Pleasant St., Amherst; and Wilson's Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette at 115 Conz St. in Northampton, 01060 or Gazette offices at 67 Main St., Easthampton, or 9 East Pleasant St., Amherst. Donations may also be made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

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

Hillside Pomona Grange encompasses includes smaller Grange groups in Chesterfield, Huntington and Southwick. Its charity work does not end with its donation to the Toy Fund.

"This year, instead of giving gifts to each other as we usually do at Christmas, we're going to bring in gifts for children to give to the Children and Family Services in Pittsfield," Martin said.

She said the Grange members who have died, who are "too many to name," will be memorialized every time a child unwraps a present from the Toy Fund.

"We just feel like maybe some of the children we know in our community that are less fortunate may have a great Christmas because of this," she said. "This time of year, it's all about the children."

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