PORTLAND – Having kids around can make even the toughest situations seem more manageable for struggling adults.

That’s why many Maine parents in trying situations want nothing more than to give their kids a gift this holiday season.

But for jobless parents, those living paycheck to paycheck or struggling with medical problems, holiday gifts might not be in the budget.

Many in that situation have applied to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund for gifts to show their children how much they care.

The toy fund buys gifts for children in need with money donated from readers of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. The fund helps Mainers in Cumberland, York, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Knox counties.

A divorced father from Bridgton with an 8-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son wants to give his kids gifts so they know he appreciates their love and support.

But he can’t afford even the smallest present.

In June, he lost his job and his home and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — all in the same week.

Though everything seemed to be going wrong, his kids kept his spirits alive. “My son stayed by my side and told me every day that as long as we stuck together we would be OK,” he wrote in his application. “It doesn’t sound like much, but it was his words that pulled me through.”

The father wants to put a smile on the face of his daughter, too, who is still struggling with the divorce.

“She feels like she is an object that gets passed back and forth — yet she is so much more than that,” he wrote.

Another Bruce Roberts applicant, a mother from Standish, said her 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter also struggle with her divorce from their father, which happened in October. Also this year, the family dog and the kids’ great-grandmother died, and their grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.

“It has been a very rough year for the kids,” she wrote. “It’s just been a horrible windfall of things.”

Through it all, the kids have been strong, and their resilience is contagious, she wrote. “They have done so well through everything and given me strength every day with their smiles, hugs and kisses.”

Like other Bruce Roberts applicants, the Standish mother wants to give back to her kids. But her monthly income doesn’t even cover her household expenses.

She doesn’t like to ask for help — “I’ve never had to do this before,” she wrote — but she and her family face a giftless Christmas.

“They really deserve more than what I or my (ex-husband) can do for them. I only hope that you could help us this year so that my kids can truly believe in Santa,” she wrote.

Some parents are working tirelessly to make a better life for their families, and are succeeding. The father from Bridgton recently found a new job, for example.

And a mother with mental health issues from Limerick recently moved with her two boys, a 17-year-old and 14-year-old, from transitional shelter housing in York County to their own apartment.

They receive help with housing expenses from Maine’s Bridging Rental Assistance Program, which assists Mainers with psychiatric disabilities. Under the program, participants pay 51 percent of their income toward housing; BRAP pays the rest.

Their new home is a big improvement, and the family has “stayed together through it all,” the mother wrote, but her monthly income is only $1,000.

She has no money left for holiday gifts.

“My focus is on keeping our housing and (paying bills), which leaves no money for extras. Any help would be appreciated,” she wrote.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:

[email protected]