I guess it was about ten years ago that then-Captain Robert Dunford let a bunch of us meet at his station house and plan a Dorchester Holiday Celebrations Tour. It was Dorchester's answer to the age-old resident complaint: "How come there is only one Christmas tree lighting in the biggest neighborhood in the city?" So we met and planned and, well, as you know, today Dorchester has about ten holiday trees, thanks to a team of public servants - from the district city councillor to the public works employee who brings the trees, sets them up and then makes sure the lights are there to greet you every night.
But someone had to pay for all these smiles and since City of Boston taxpayer money was out of the question, we hatched another plan. I was dispatched to ask for help from Tom Gannon's brother, who at the time was the Chief Financial Officer of Shaw's Supermarkets. After Mr. CFO heard what we needed the money for, he gave it to us - $2,500, just like that.
Now Mr. Gannon was a long way from the street he grew up on in Fields Corner, but he made sure lots of kids in his old neighborhood saw Santa and got a goody bag full of great stuff for years to come. So every time you drive by one of those Christmas trees in the neighborhood remember the guy who helped start it all.
This year - just like last year - the tree lightings took place the Saturday after Thanksgiving because there are a lot of Dorchester public employees who think it's important to make children smile and help their parents do a little of the same, so they all volunteer to make it happen.
Back to Tom Gannon. He never stops, no matter the season. The man is always asking for something on behalf of somebody and it never seems to be for himself. Recently I was accosted by one of his brothers at the bank and handed a flyer. "Tom asked me to give these to anyone I ran into," his brother said. I grabbed it, politely put it on the front seat of my car and didn't read it until much later, and when I did read it, I smiled and thought: "What a good guy Tom Gannon is and what a great Dorchester family those Gannons are." A family who believes in the concept that all charity begins at home.
The flyer was about Tom's annual Christmas toy party. For the last 11 years he has collected toys for the girls and boys at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester. Tom asks that you come and share some holiday cheer and drop off a toy on Saturday Dec. 6 at the Stadium Pub. They even set up a website this year for him, tomstoyparty.org. If you are looking for a place to leave a donation, Tom's is a very good place indeed.
One final bit of business: I'm taking a break from this space for a while. I don't know when I'll be back but this much I know, I'll see you around the neighborhood. Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2009.