Toy fund donation honors ‘Bagel Buddies’

  • Front left, Anne Lapointe, Barbara Graves, Pat Coon, Jack Favaro, Amy Enright, Mary Knight and Joe Enright, at Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton, where they meet for breakfast most mornings. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2019 11:11:32 PM

EASTHAMPTON — For the past 15 years, Patricia “Pat” Coon of Florence has been part of a group that drops in at Tandem Bagel every morning for conversation over cups of coffee and bagels or pastries.

“We’re all good friends and all meet there,” Coon said.

When she first joined what was then known as the English Muffin Ladies, several widows made their daily journey to the former Manhan Cafe nearby. Since that establishment closed, the group moved to Tandem Bagel, expanded its membership beyond women who had lost their spouses to include men and a married couple and rebranded as the Bagel Buddies.

But one thing that has not changed for Coon is her annual tradition to recognize and honor her friends by making a $50 donation to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Coon said her donation continues because, as a retired school teacher, she understands the importance of children getting presents during the holidays.

“When I was a school teacher in Easthampton, I could see how much the Toy Fund meant to children who received gifts,” Coon said.

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts at 59 Interstate Drive in West Springfield verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Coon said most of the Bagel Buddies live in and around Easthampton, and most grew up in the city. She said if others are looking for companionship they might find it in her group.

“We welcome other people to sit with us,” Coon said.

The daily meet-ups generally last an hour to 90 minutes, with at least 10 to 12 typically on hand.

“It’s funny that we never run out of things to say,” Coon said.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 367 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop & Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co. 1584 Dwight St. #1, Holyoke; Children’s Museum at Holyoke, 444 Dwight St., Holyoke.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

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

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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