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Toy Fund 2013

Toy Fund: City woman gives back in honor of help she received

For Mecaye Santos of Northampton, Christmas is also a time to give to others and to think about the help she received in the past.

It was back in 2001 that Santos, a single mother with two sons, moved into a home on Vernon Street built by local volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, the international nonprofit organization that provides safe, affordable housing for low-income families. She’s never forgotten that help and for years has donated to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, which provides gift certificates for children of needy families.

“When you know what it was like to struggle, to be in a situation at Christmastime when it’s hard to buy presents for your kids, you want to help others out,” said Santos. She who works in a local dental practice and has two grown sons, Christian and James. “I think the Toy Fund is a great way to do that.”

The Toy Fund, now in its 81st year, distributes $40 vouchers to eligible families that can be used at participating local retailers through Dec. 29.

Over the years, Santos has also made donations to the Toy Fund in memory of family, friends, neighbors and others who have died during that year. In donating $50 to the fund this year, she’s done the same, and one of the people she’s honoring had a direct role in helping Santos in the past: her friend Patricia “Trish” Weed of Northampton, one of the Habitat of Humanity volunteers who helped construct her Vernon Street home.

“I met Trish the year the house was being built, and we became good friends,” Santos said. “She was a wonderful, generous person — one of the people who helped my sons and I have a better life.”

Santos has also honored her friends Kathleen Sheehan and Mary McClure, whom she met through her church, Blessed Sacrament of Northampton. Both had helped her spirits when she had been laid off from a previous job by going out with her for coffee after church services. “It became a real routine that we all enjoyed,” Santos said.

And this year, Santos also dedicated her donation in memory of Real Kirouac, a friend she met when both worked at Big Y Supermarket — her first job in the area, Santos noted.

“The Toy Fund is a great way to brighten up Christmas for children and to remember those special people in your life,” she said.

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