FALMOUTH — Sue Mack wore a Santa hat and smiled as she led a group of older gentlemen down a row of boxes stacked inside the former Lamey-Wellehan Shoe store at the Falmouth Shopping Center.

“You’re going to love this,” said Mack, a volunteer with the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund.

Bob Mortimer, 84, of Falmouth followed Mack while coaching a new volunteer.

“This is pretty tough, but I’ll show you,” he said with a cheeky grin.

The 67th year of what is now the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund is officially underway. Since 1949, the fund has used donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of children who might not otherwise receive a gift at Christmas. The fund serves needy families throughout Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties.

“We serve so many families in need,” said Kathleen Meade, executive director of the toy fund. “We serve them at a time when its stressful enough to feed kids and heat their houses. We provide a safety net for families that love their children and want them to have holiday experiences like everyone else.”

The story began in December of 1949 when Matthew Barron, Portland’s assistant welfare director, teamed up with Robert Beith, an editor and columnist at the Portland Evening Express. Barron knew of many families facing hardships and Beith wanted to help.

So Beith wrote a column using a pen name – Bruce Roberts – and asked readers for donations to help the city’s needy children. By Christmas, they raised $3,176 and provided gifts to 1,200 kids in the Portland area.

Though the newspaper has seen many changes over the years, the fund’s mission remains the same and the Portland Press Herald remains committed to keeping the tradition going.

In 2014, the fund changed its name to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, in the spirit of Bruce Roberts. Last year, the fund raised an estimated $127,057, which provided gifts to roughly 3,500 kids. This year, organizers hope to raise $200,000. As of Wednesday, roughly $4,000 had been collected.

Meade hopes donations will increase after Thanksgiving. She said the fund has seen a slight increase in contributions over the past couple years.

“People are really needing this help,” Meade said. “It allows kids to feel part of the game.”

To make a donation, go to www.pressheraldtoyfund.org or send a check to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

There will be several fundraising events leading up to Christmas. Longfellow Books in Portland is putting on a Book Store Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 3. Volunteers will be collecting donations.

Elsmere BBQ in South Portland will host a toy fund night from 4 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 7, and a percentage of sales will go to the fund.

Merry Madness, when many stores in downtown Portland will stay open late for holiday shopping, happens on Dec. 8. A percentage of ticket sales to a kickoff party at Portland House of Music will go to the fund. And the Maine Red Claws will also host a toy fund night at 5 p.m. on Dec. 18.

For more information about these and other fundraisers, or to volunteer, go to www.pressheraldtoyfund.org.

As the holidays approach, volunteers are hard at work unpacking boxes of toys, games, dolls and electronics to distribute to families and social service agencies.

On Wednesday, volunteers Larry Bennett, 85, of Westbrook and Mortimer were busy unpacking and sorting boys gifts. “My wife told me to volunteer,” said Mortimer. “We love it.”

Families who apply to the program will receive three to four gifts per child for Christmas. Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org.