A simple note came with a check that comes every year around Christmas to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund.
The note said, “Thank for your assistance and attention. All best wishes as you and your colleagues continue this holiday season activity for Maine’s children.”
The anonymous donor, identified by the letters, “JOCIJIANNA,” has contributed generously to the fund for the past 61 years. This year’s donation contained five checks totaling $250.
Another longtime donor, “Iggy S. Schwartz and family,” sent a $300 check to the fund a couple of weeks ago. That donation came from Peter Buxton, a former Westbrook resident, who has been giving to the fund for the past 50 years under the fictitious name.
This holiday season, donations to the toy fund are down, but the fund’s director hopes that regular supporters will continue to show their generosity.
“The donors come through because they believe in (the cause),” said Kathleen Meade, the fund’s director. “They give from the heart. They understand there is need and they respond to it.”
Since 1949, the toy fund has been helping families in need to provide gifts for their children for the holidays. The fund is supported by readers of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and MaineToday Media websites, whose donations are used to buy gifts for thousands of kids.
Buxton, 72, has been giving to the fund for five decades.
He remained anonymous for most of that time, sending his annual check to the fund under the name “Iggy S. Schwartz and family.”
Buxton remembered on Friday the day he and his friend, Ruth McDonough, made a pact to match each other’s donations. At the time, they worked at the former New England Telephone Co. in Portland. Buxton said he came up with “Iggy S. Schwartz” on a whim.
“Somehow Iggy was on my mind,” he said. “I was trying to think of something funny and it came out. We wrote it up and sent (the donation) in and that was that.”
Over the years, Buxton mailed his donation to McDonough, who matched it, then mailed it to the fund.
Buxton, who now lives in Sudbury, Mass., learned the real meaning of Christmas early on. As a child, he lived in England. His parents worked hard, but never had a lot of money for Christmas presents. When he was 14 years old, his family moved to Westbrook and the holidays became brighter.
Since then, he his wife, Joan, have donated to the toy fund and other causes that benefit needy kids.
“I always learned to give back,” he said. “I know it’s a worthy cause. It’s a solid cause. It’s what Christmas is all about. It’s something we both believe in.”
This year, the fund will serve an estimated 7,500 kids of all ages in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties.
Donations raised this year will support next year’s effort to provide toys for children. As of Friday afternoon, Bruce Roberts volunteers counted $22,000 in donations.
Contributions last season reached just about $200,000. That compares to a record-setting $260,000 collected in 2009. Meade hopes to reach that mark again this year.
Donations can be made by phone, by mailing a check to the fund or through the MaineToday Media websites and the fund’s Facebook page.
Meade said the cost for toys is on the rise and more donations will be needed to keep up with a growing need.
“We’ve had a steady line of people picking up (gifts) and a steady line of people applying,” she said. “We need to keep doing this to fulfill the mission of this organization.”
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: