Mass. dealer's Christmas spirit is on display
There are few aspects of community life in the Mendon area of southeastern Massachusetts that 52-year-old Kevin Meehan hasn't touched with his energy and generosity.
The scope of Meehan's community projects is wide, ranging from initiating the first stages of a new police station for the town to holding a rock 'n' roll for education fundraiser.
But Christmas is special.
Each December Meehan opens a 43-acre Christmas display on the family homestead in Millis, Mass., with the Salvation Army as its beneficiary.
Meehan says the Millis Wonderland Christmas display is close to his heart.
"It started when my dad was dying," he says. "He had been living with us and I needed some way to handle my sadness. So I took a day off and started putting lights on trees on our property," Meehan says. "That very day he died, and we just kept going."
Ten years later, the Millis Wonderland includes myriad lights, 6,000 to 7,000 extension cords and close to 800 animated figures, including mice that decorate trees and Ninja Turtles.
Meehan invites the Salvation Army to send staff members and volunteers to Millis Wonderland to collect donations each December. The display has been featured on ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" and has become the largest Salvation Army donation site in Massachusetts.
"Because the Salvation Army does not work on Sundays, my wife, kids and I used to collect from visitors to the display," the dealer says.
"This past December, my 15-year-olds begged to not do it, and the local Lions Club filled in, making it a contest among members and doing a great job,'' Meehan says.
"If there is anything I could give to my children, it would be common sense, the knowledge that they are blessed and a sense of community," Meehan says.
Like their father, he adds, "they expect to give."
You can reach Jenny King at email@example.com.