Toy Fund: Northampton woman honors father with continued giving

  • Marcel “Mike” Meunier, 1964. FILE PHOTO

  • Lois and Marcel “Mike” Meunier, in an undated family photograph. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2021 5:44:25 PM
Modified: 12/13/2021 5:43:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A Northampton native who became a prominent member of the city’s business community, Marcel “Mike” Meunier was the “world’s best grandfather” to his four grandchildren, according to his daughter Suzanne Rogers.

But Meunier, who served as auditor and lead loan officer at the former Northampton National Bank and headed the Florence Business and Civic Association, also loved all children, annually making a donation to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, Rogers said.

It’s a decades-long tradition that Rogers, who like her father has spent her entire life in Hampshire County, has continued, now donating in memory of Meunier, who died just before Christmas in 1997, and attaching a note reading, “Christmas is always for the children.”

“Christmas is a special time for children as they are full of wonder when looking at Christmas decorations and awaiting Santa Claus’ visit,” Rogers said. “It is a tragedy that some families do not have the means to give their children gifts and to experience that joy.”

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, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

Meunier was also a loan officer and consultant at the former First National Bank of Amherst, retiring in 1978, and served as treasurer for the Association of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

For Rogers, one of her favorite stories about her father involved her best friend, who was seeking a bank loan in 1969. Because she was working and her husband was entering graduate school at the University of Massachusetts, this friend was obligated to take a loan out in her name, Rogers said. Understanding the sensitivity surrounding gender roles at the time, Meunier made the loan in a careful way.

“My father could tell that her husband’s ego was feeling a bit fragile given that the loan would be in her name,” Rogers said. “But he handled it in such a way that her husband was comfortable with the whole transaction. She was forever grateful to him for his tact.”

Rogers said she wants to make sure that her father is remembered for this, as well as his love for children and spreading the joy of the season.

“That’s why it is important to me, to honor a man who was highly respected in our community for his honesty and integrity,” Rogers said.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble/Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Once Upon A Child,1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Plato’s Closet, 1472 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., and 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.

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