Toy for Joy team ready to help Western Massachusetts families for 100th year

Each year of Toy for Joy is as memorable for those who donate as it is for the thousands of children in Western Massachusetts who receive toys and books through the generosity of area residents, school children, groups civics, businesses and others.

This year takes on additional historical significance. It’s the 100th year of the campaign bringing the joy of Christmas to children who might otherwise miss the thrill of receiving gifts for the holiday.

Even though it’s a century old, Toy for Joy remains very relevant in the modern age – more than ever, in fact.

“Families are still experiencing the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We see it,” said Danielle LaTaille, director of social services for the Salvation Army’s Greater Springfield Citadel at 170 Pearl St.

“We are very grateful for the generosity people have shown over the years and, thanks to them, we are delighted to once again help families in our area,” said LaTaille.

The Toy for Joy Campaign is co-sponsored by The Republican, MassLive and El Pueblo Latino in partnership with The Salvation Army. The 2022 campaign marks 100 years of helping to make holidays bright for families in need in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties. Salvation Army units in Holyoke and Greenfield are working with Springfield Citadel to make Toy for Joy possible

The first donations began arriving at Republican offices last week. Over a dozen have been received as the fundraising campaign officially kicks off today. The goal is to raise $150,000 by Christmas Eve.

“It’s heartwarming to know that the Toy for Joy tradition lives on 100 years after the civic-minded citizens of Springfield first launched this effort,” said Cynthia G. Simison, editor of The Republican. “What’s even more special is seeing groups and individuals who for decades have made Toy for Joy their charity of choice each holiday season, helping to give generously.”

For the next month, The Republican and MassLive will be tracking all donations to the campaign online and in print daily. All donations, big or small, will help local children have happy holidays, Simison said.

The Salvation Army site in Springfield is expanding its service from 1,000 families to 1,500 this year, thanks to the generosity of 2021 donors. After years of not reaching the $150,000 campaign goal, in the past two years the $150,000 goal has been surpassed, with $164,847 raised last year.

Nicholas Cocchi, Hampden County Sheriff said he and his staff were once again honored to be part of the Toy for Joy team.

“We are thrilled to partner again to help make the Toy for Joy campaign a success,” said Cocchi. The sheriff leads the list of community partners signed up to help the centennial campaign.

“Christmas isn’t just about gifts, it’s about family and putting a smile on a child’s face, and this program helps do that for so many families in Western Massachusetts. The pandemic and now inflation has made life difficult for many people, so we are ready to help,” Cocchi said. “We encourage people to give what they can and play their part in helping the community.”

During Toy for Joy season, Cocchi and his staff, prison inmate groups and community partners traditionally make several cash donations. Sheriff’s Department personnel also volunteer with the Salvation Army to help organize gifts, unload trucks, and distribute gifts to families, and they will do so again.

In addition to toys and games, each child who benefits from Toy for Joy also receives a book. “For more than a decade, we’ve made family literacy an important part of Toy for Joy,” Simison said. “We hope that by connecting children and their families with books, we encourage them to develop a lifelong love of reading.”

For more information on the Salvation Army’s Greater Springfield Citadel, call 413-733-1518. This location serves Agawam, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Northampton, Palmer, Monson, Springfield, Ware, West Springfield, Wilbraham, Southwick, Russell and Belchertown.

The Holyoke Salvation Army serves Chicopee, Holyoke, Granby and South Hadley, and can be reached at 413-532-6312.

Franklin County families can call the Greenfield Salvation Army number at 413-773-3154 ext. 108 for information about Toy for Joy. Greenfield’s office is located at 72 Chapman Street.

This year’s community partners also include Reminder Publications and The Westfield News.

Toy for Joy serves children 16 and under in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties. Some of today’s donors have been recipients before, and they’ve never forgotten the Christmas cheer they got from the campaign, Simison noted.

The coupon attached to this story can be used to submit a contribution by mail to The Republican, 1860 Main St., Springfield, MA 01103. A portal for online donations will go live later this week.

Contributions can be sent with this coupon to The Republican, 1860 Main St., Springfield, MA, 01103.