Thursday, December 12, 2013
By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel
WATERVILLE - The impact of Superstorm Sandy and slower-than-usual donations have left the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers scrambling for support as it assembles Christmas boxes for more than 1,600 children throughout Maine.
Cristen Sawyer, the Christmas program director at the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville, prepares Christmas gift boxes for needy children in central Maine.
Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel
THE CHRISTMAS PROGRAM of the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers accepts new items only. For a full list of needed items, drop-off hours or more information, visit www.mainechildrenshome.org or call 872-0261.
The home's Christmas program is based on Silver Street, where hundreds of volunteers work year-round to gather toys, books and clothing for pre-teen children.
For 60 years, the volunteers have assembled thousands of items for kids who need them.
Every child is supposed to receive an outfit, pajamas, a small toy, a large toy, two books, a coloring book and a hat-and-mitten set.
Barbie dolls, building blocks, dolls, dinosaurs, dump trucks, temporary tattoos and hula hoops line the shelves at the headquarters. Each family also gets a board game, such as Bingo, Monopoly or Scrabble.
Every year, rented trucks loaded with boxes meet families at the Waterville and Augusta armories to distribute the Christmas boxes.
This year, however, the shelves have open space. Many of the storage bins that would ordinarily hold clothing are empty.
The program's account executive, Greg Glynn, said donations are "really down," especially for kids ages 8 to 12.
Without the items, the normally busy packing schedule is stalled, said Cristen Sawyer, the program's director.
On Wednesday, Sawyer said about 900 boxes had been packed but not complete because they are missing items.
Since the donation deadline is Dec. 7, she is concerned that boxes will have to be sent out incomplete. She hopes that Black Friday shoppers will come through with a surge of support.
She said she isn't sure why donations aren't on pace with previous years, but Sandy has worsened the situation.
She said she knows of at least one family that signed up for help after it was displaced to Maine after a fire caused by the storm in Queens, N.Y., burned more than 50 homes.
The larger impact has been the loss of support from Kids in Distressed Situations, a program based in New York City that has helped by providing support in the form of toys and clothing.
"They've been physically affected by the hurricane," and they've also needed to put all of their resources into their local areas, where so many people are seriously affected," Sawyer said.
The home also lost help from the Cuddle Me Diaper Bank, a New Jersey-based program that distributes diapers and wipes to teenage parents.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at: