FALMOUTH — Volunteers were busy Thursday morning unpacking boxes stuffed with toys and gadgets to distribute to families in need this holiday season.

“This puts me in the Christmas spirit,” said Janet Leaver of Topsham. “It’s just really important that we share what we have whether that’s money, time or talent. We have so much.”

Since 1949, the Portland Press Herald has dedicated itself to helping families facing hardships during the holiday season.

The Press Herald Toy Fund, in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts, collects donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts.

The fund, now in its 68th year, is accepting applications for toys for needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties. For the first time, families in Androscoggin County can also apply for assistance.

Kathleen Meade, longtime executive director of the toy fund, said Thursday she has received a steady stream of calls and emails with requests for help.

“People need help,” Meade said. “People are feeling desperate and are glad there is a solution for them.”

Carl Akin of Yarmouth, a volunteer for the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, unloads boxes of toys from a handcart Thursday. The fund is in its 68th year and Akin has been volunteering for seven years. “It’s a good organization and these are fun people to work with,” he said. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Last year, the fund raised $159,998, which provided gifts to 3,603 kids. This year, organizers hope to raise $200,000.

A dedicated team at the Press Herald has organized several fundraising events now through Christmas. Otto’s Pizza, at 125 John Roberts Road in South Portland, is holding a fundraiser on Nov. 28; Portland Potluck, where businesses are encouraged to hold potluck lunches and donate to the toy fund, is Dec. 8; Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill, at 448 Cottage Road in South Portland, is holding a fundraiser on Dec. 19; and the band Sons of Quint will play a benefit concert on Dec. 19 at Bunker Brewery at 17 Westfield St. in Portland.

To apply to the fund, you can download an application at pressheraldtoyfund.org or pick one up at the Portland Press Herald, 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy 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

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MelanieCreamer