Rising college costs and levels of student loan debt are a growing source of concern in state capitals and in the U.S. Congress.

And in at least two households in southern Maine, the crushing cost of a parent’s college education is threatening hopes that some deserving children will find presents under the tree on Chrismas morning.

One mother wrote to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund to ask for help by explaining that she went to school and got a bachelor’s degree in hopes of making her family self-sufficient. But it just hasn’t worked out that way, so far.

“On paper, my salary seems generous and more than enough to meet my family’s needs, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. I did try to better myself and set myself up to be successful, but now I feel as though my kids and family are paying for it because a large chunk of our monthly income goes to my student loans,” she wrote.

What’s left is needed to pay for oil and other necessities, she wrote. “We are reaching out for help because we don’t want the kids to feel the burden of our hardship, especially around the holidays when they will see their friends and cousins receiving more than we could provide.”

Another mother wrote the fund about how the cost of her college education is straining her family’s finances, too.

“I am at the end of my schooling and have reached the end of my financial aid,” she wrote. Every extra penny now goes toward tuition for her final semesters, or to basics such as gas and groceries.

“Help from the toy fund would be greatly appreciated with the hope that next year, when I’m graduated and we have a good double income, the tables will be turned and we could help provide Christmas for another family,” she wrote.

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents.

The fund – now in its 67th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties. Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Welcome Center desk on the fifth floor of One City Center in Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made on the website or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

For more information and to donate online, go to: pressheraldtoyfund.org.

See more stories about the fund at pressherald.com.

MONDAY’S DONATIONS

In memory of Elston and Larry  $100

Georgia Hurtubise  $100

Best to all from Bob’s Welding Service family  $150

Merry Christmas!  $25

To the children from a teacher  $40

In loving memory of Mocha  $60

Merry Christmas from Yvette Michaud  $75

In memory of Henry and Jeanette Gagnon  $100

Merry Xmas to the kids from Ray & Cheryl  $35

Brayden and Owen Bishop  $50

In memory of my Mom – Thelma Gould  $25

In memory of our parents: Peg and Paul Garvin and Dee and Keith Libby – Love, Jack & Pat  $100

In memory of W100, W1GX, K1TEV, and K1RQ  $100

In memory of Frances Stearns Davis from Kim Connell  $50

Earl and Stasia Goodwin  $50

In memory of Ann & Richard Hall and Doris Hardy  $50

Happy Holiday! L.L. Lathrop Inc. & Employees  $10,000

In memory of Tommy, Pat & Clara, from Constance Dayton  $50

In loving memory of Ellen Graham, from Patty & family  $25

For the Late Lamented  $25

Merry Christmas! Santa Claus  $50

In memory of Martha  $50

In memory of Maxine Drew  $50

Frederick Jr. & Maryeileen Haley  $250

Sevee & Maher Engineers  $1,000

Andrea & Dick Hall  $150

Clifford & Debra Walker  $150

CEFD Hose Company No 2  $200

For the little angels! Patricia Clark  $100

Treekeepers LLC – Johnson’s Aboriculture  $250

Merry Christmas & many meows to kitties & their persons, from another “Flossie the Cat”  $75

Barbara & Jayson Bock  $250

In memory of Bamma & Pappa O’Toole, the Haskells  $50

Total to date  $108,967.60