In his three decades at the helm of Riverside Community Care, Scott Bock has been fortunate to run across a lot of people looking to do good. But he’d never gotten a call quite like the one from Kevin Meehan a couple of weeks ago. Meehan was calling, quite unexpectedly, to donate $1 million to the mental health charity.
“I’d never met him,” Bock said last week. “He called and said he wanted to help.” After one meeting, the gift was a done deal.
Meehan is a car dealer in Central Massachusetts. Quiet is probably not the right word to describe him — he is a man of strong opinions, strongly expressed — but he has quietly become a great force for good in and around his adopted hometown of Millis. For instance, after residents voted down a proposed $3 million police station, he decided to finance it himself. “I’m just passionate about helping people,” he said by way of explaining his gift to Riverside Community Care, whose work runs the gamut from early childhood health to addiction treatment. “Our health care system is a mess, and they’re a great organization.”
Riverside provides a wide range of social services across much of Massachusetts. But Meehan became aware of it through its extensive work with the Milford Regional Medical Center, which is essentially his local hospital.
Through the hospital, he met Chris Burke, who is the head of maintenance for Riverside. He tried to hire Burke, but Burke declined, saying he was too passionate about Riverside’s mission to leave the organization. That commitment struck a nerve. “For him, it’s not about the money, it’s about the work,” Meehan marveled. “It’s about the life accomplishment.” Suddenly an idea began to take shape.
If Meehan likes passion, he should love Bock, a visionary who has devoted his career to building one of the state’s most successful human services agencies. Without fanfare, his organization helps thousands of people a year.
Meehan is not new to philanthropy. He got involved in the local hospital eight years ago, and gives away tens of thousands of dollars to needy families around Millis and Mendon every holiday season.
To call him a car dealer understates the scale of his business ventures. “My dad was a used car dealer,” he said. “Made a few dollars, gave me a few bucks.” Meehan eventually got into selling new cars — Chevrolets, then Fords, then Chryslers. Along the way, his car business became a little Central Massachusetts powerhouse. He bought a diner, then built an office park, and gradually began taking over the center of town. His pride and joy is an annual car show, complete with fireworks, that he said draws about 40,000 people.
Meehan and his family live on a nonworking farm in Millis. His five children have been known to ride around town in a buggy drawn by his team of Clydesdales. He’s the kind of guy who knows how to enjoy being rich.
Bock says some of the money will go to build a new facility in the Blackstone Valley, where he now serves patients under less-than-optimal conditions. “People are really excited about it,” he said. “It’s really transformative, it really changes things. We’ve certainly had some great donors over the years, but no single donor has ever made a donation of $1 million. It’s inspiring.”
Meehan deflects the notion that he is doing anything special, arguing that more people who are able to give should do so. “If you do well in life, what good is the money?” he asked rhetorically. “Are you gonna hoard it, or do you help? How much do you need? My question is why more people don’t give.”Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adrian_walker.