Toy Fund donor remembers Christmas at Grammy’s

  • Glenn Meakim, 69, of Hadley, holds a photo of his grandmother. He donated to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in remembrance of celebrating Christmas at her home in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAITLIN ASHWORTH

  • Glenn Meakim, 69, of Hadley, holds a photo of his grandmother. He donated to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in remembrance of celebrating Christmas at her home in Amherst. gazette staff/CAITLIN ASHWORTH

Published: 11/24/2017 1:19:33 PM

AMHERST — Glenn Meakim remembers that as a boy, eager to get to his grandmother’s home for Christmas, he would run up the flight of stairs to her apartment over the A.J. Hastings store in Amherst. Stairs always seemed so big to him when he was a small child.

When he opened the door, the smell of freshly baked cookies filled “Grammy’s” kitchen along with the aroma of hot chocolate and apple cider, he said, recalling this holiday tradition from the 1950s. Nineteen family members crowed in the living room where a window looked out over South Pleasant Street. Presents were scattered around the Christmas tree.

Was it on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, Meakim, 69, wondered aloud. Details are fuzzy, but Meakim looks back on the time with a smile.

“It was just a magical time,” said Meakim, of Hadley, a former chef at Smith College in Northampton.

To provide Christmas cheer for other children, Meakim has been donating to the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund for the past 15 years.

For many years, he would donate in memory of his parents, Betty and Charles, but last year he felt nostalgic. Along with his $50 donation, Meakim wrote, “Remembering Christmas at Grammy Meakim’s in the 50’s.” He donated another $50 in honor of his parents.

“She was a crackerjack,” Meakim said, adding that his grandmother, Mary (Currie) Meakim, moved to the United States from Scotland when she was 12. “She was very loving, very sweet … I never saw her complain.”

Gifts from Grammy were simple: socks, a yo-yo, a wallet. But it wasn’t about the gifts that made the day so special for Meakim, it was about spending time with the family. He had five cousins, two brothers and a sister. The nine children played pickup sticks and opened presents together, creating a mess of paper flying across the room.

“Kids deserve to have a Christmas,” Meakim said.

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

Berkshire Children and Families at 220 Russell St. in Hadley verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers. Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies. Applications are due Monday.

The Toy Fund provides certificates redeemable at participating local retailers to eligible families who can use them to buy holiday gifts at participating stores through Dec. 31.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 341 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 Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette at 115 Conz St. in Northampton, 01060, or made online through Gazettenet at Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at


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