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Globe Santa gave a little boy gifts years ago. Now he gives generously to others.

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“[H]e always would give what he could, especially time.”

BRAINTREE — It’s Giving Tuesday, and Eddie McGrath clearly embodies its spirit.

As a small boy living in public housing, he received Christmas presents from Globe Santa. Today he is committed to giving back, which he does prodigiously, and Globe Santa is prominently on his list.

McGrath, 41, is founder and chief executive of Rockland Recovery Treatment Centers, a 12-step-based outpatient facility for substance use disorder. It also operates a mental health outpatient facility.

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The recovery industry isn’t typically in the business of philanthropy, but “we strive to be different than the other facilities,” said McGrath, who opened the treatment centers three and a half years ago. “One of our core values is trying to bring change to the community.”

This is evident as soon as you walk into the office, where the first thing that greets you is the Globe Santa collection bin, and where visitors and employees are encouraged to donate warm hats and gloves.

Around the corner, a wall is covered with letters from the numerous causes the organization supports. This includes Globe Santa, which this year received from them $7,500 for toys, books, and games for children in need.

There are many more organizations he’s helped, including Shaloh House Chabad in Stoughton, Saint Patrick School in Stoneham, Cardinal Cushing Centers in Hanover, The Sun Will Rise Foundation in Quincy, the Stoneham Police Department, the Gosnold Behavioral Health Facility in Falmouth, and the Joey Domenici Foundation, which supports people in the early stages of substance use recovery.

McGrath also supports two local boxers from Brockton and Dorchester who have struggled, but “are on the right path and doing great things. I always love a good comeback story.”

That may be because he has his own such story, which is so full of hardship it resembles the letters Globe Santa receives from struggling families. “That’s why I keep [Globe Santa] so close to my heart,” he said.

He spent his early years in Quincy, where both his parents struggled with addiction. For a time he lived with his mother, but he was shuffled around to various family members until he was about 5.

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“He lived with his grandmother on his mother’s side, and his grandmother on his father’s side,” said his half-sister, Tammy McFarland, who for 13 seasons has led the Globe Santa team in Taunton that reads and processes some 17,000 letters from families requesting holiday gift assistance because they’re beset by overwhelming hardships.

Ultimately McGrath’s paternal grandmother took legal custody of him, and they shared a home with her aunt and uncle, Donna and Eli Florence, who were building a new house in Easton.

But as the years went on, the young McGrath became addicted to drugs and alcohol. “There [were] some very dark times in active addiction,” he said. “No one ever thought I would get sober.” There were rifts in the family “because that’s what happens in addiction.”

Finally, after about 11 years ago he did get sober, with the help of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, after many years of struggle and relapse. For seven years he worked for his uncle, then he opened a group of sober living homes for men.

When he decided to start Rockland Recovery Treatment Centers, he knew that philanthropy would be part of the mission. It was a philosophy that was imparted to him by his uncle, Eli Florence, who is president and chief executive of Kaydon Group and Florence Electric, a building technology company in Canton.

Florence contributes to multiple social service organizations and is a longtime Globe Santa donor; his own mentor, he said, was his uncle, Leonard Florence, a philanthropist who started the Leonard Florence Center for Living, an assisted living facility in Chelsea for residents with ALS.

“That’s where Eddy learned it,” said Florence. “He wasn’t able to afford [to be philanthropic] until three or four years ago, but he always would give what he could, especially time.”

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McGrath said that when he opened the Rockland Centers, he told McFarland he wanted to be involved with the Globe Santa program because he could relate to it.

“A lot of the letters to Globe Santa come from grandparents,” he said. “My grandmother is the one who raised me. Grandparents aren’t supposed to be raising children. And so our missions align. Both of our goals are to bring joy to families.”

Said McFarland: “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to say: “Your brother saved my life. He saved my sister’s life. He saved my friend’s life.”

In this spirit of community service, Globe Santa, now in its 68th year, is gearing up to deliver generous gift boxes to nearly 30,000 children across Massachusetts.

“By coming together as a community, we uplift the spirits of our neighbors in need and we also contribute to the development of confident children who feel valued and supported,” said Linda Henry, chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners and president of the Boston Globe Foundation.

All donations go directly to support Globe Santa. On this giving Tuesday, please try to help.

For 68 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail, or online at globesanta.org.

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Linda Matchan can be reached at [email protected]

Source: Boston Globe

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