LEE -- The Laliberte Toy Fund, the long-standing holiday fundraiser that brings joy to dozens of less fortunate youngsters in the Lee area, had to suspend operations for 2012, according to organizers.
The Laliberte Toy Fund is not accepting donations this year, while it undergoes what Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis called a "reorganization."
"The reorganization was not completed in time for this year's fund drive, but will be back in 2013," Buffis said.
Buffis has overseen the toy fund since he joined he Lee Police department 33 years ago, taking the reins from Ed Laliberte when he retired in 1979. Laliberte, a veteran Lee police officer, began the fundraiser in 1958. It was renamed in his honor following his death in the early 1980s.
The fund annually provides toys for more than 120 children ages 9 and under in Lee, Tyringham and Lenox Dale. Last year, nearly $8,500 was raised between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
The names of the children and their families are kept confidential, and the children are never told where the toys come from.
Several townspeople have contacted The Eagle, worried the boys and girls who depend on the toy fund Christmas gifts would go without this season.
Buffis noted that all requests of the Laliberte Toy Fund were referred to the Eagle Santa Fund or the South County Holiday Fund based in Great Barrington. Furthermore, toys purchased in anticipation of this year's fundraiser have been forwarded to the South County effort to help meet those requests.
Buffis also encouraged regular toy fund contributors to support the two aforementioned fundraisers, in lieu of the Laliberte Toy Fund this year.
The toy fund's roots reach back to the mid-1950s when Laliberte became concerned for needy children. He noticed mothers with children leaving the state welfare office once housed at Lee Town Hall and wondered if the kids would get anything for Christmas. So he began to discreetly gather names and ages of the children in the Lee area.
Laliberte then collected broken or unwanted toys, fixed them up like new and made sure the needy youngsters received them on Christmas morning.
Once word of Laliberte's good deeds spread in town, he couldn't keep up with demand and began buying new toys with his own money. That's when a friend suggested he establish a Christmas toy fund so others in town could donate money toward new toys for less fortunate children.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.