BELCHERTOWN – During the holidays, teachers often receive little tokens of appreciation from their students. Some may receive a mug that reinforces their “best” status, while others may get a gift card at a coffee shop or office supply store. But a handful of teachers at Jabish Brook Middle School in Belchertown have something far different to look forward to this time of year.
For several years now, the Fisher children have donated money to The Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in recognition of their teachers. Together, the Fishermen – Charlie, 12, Leo, 10, and Quinn, 6 – donated $ 50 in recognition of “Mrs. Schliemann, Ms. Stanek, Ms. Ingram, Ms. Lavigne, Ms. O’Brien and all the teachers at JBMS â, to thank them for their hard work and dedication.
âWe started doing this to recognize our teachers and show them that they are helping us and that they are not just like every other teacher in the world,â Charlie said. âI think they like to be recognized for what they do and the part where they donate money to a cause. In the past two years we have had COVID, our teachers have worked especially hard with distance learning. They had to do whole new things. Some have never used the technology before and they deserve to be recognized.
Erica Fisher, the mother of the children, said she found information about the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund online a few years ago and remembered it was a fund her mother had donated when she was growing up in Amherst. She said she taught her children to recognize people in her community and discussed different ways to give back.
âIt’s a great way to be able to recognize all of their hard work and dedication to teaching and honoring them in a way more important than just an ornament or a tangible object,â she said.
Named after a former business director of The Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers valued at $ 40 to families for each child aged 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any community in Hampshire County except Ware, or in the southern towns of Franklin County, Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett, and Holyoke in the Hampden County.
With the donation intended to help local families, Erica Fisher hopes her children will carry on the tradition if they ever have children of their own. The gesture appears to have had an impact on the Fisher children as Charlie has said he would like his donation to make a difference in the lives of “at least five different people.”
âWe wanted to donate money so that children in need who might not receive a gift can get it,â Charlie said. âEveryone alive should receive Christmas presents. Even if you are a poor person, you should still have a gift that makes you happy. Everyone on earth deserves to be happy.
CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst verifies families’ eligibility for the toy fund, and the Gazette covers the costs associated with the walk, releasing all donations to fund the vouchers.
The following stores are participating in the toy fund this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble / Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, 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; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookstore, 9 College Street, Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Picture Book Art Museum, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookstore, 134 Main Street, Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight Street No. 1, Holyoke.
Emily Thurlow can be reached at [email protected]