December 23, 2010

Bruce Roberts Toy Fund: Spare change buys a tree but won't cover gifts

A Gorham mother who gave to the toy fund as a child now needs a bit of generosity herself.

By Deborah Sayer
News Assistant

"Dear Santa,


GIFT PACKS: The Bruce Roberts Toy Fund uses donations from readers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram to buy gifts for children in need, then distributes the gifts. The fund serves Cumberland, York, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Knox counties. Gift packs, for children 18 and younger, contain items appropriate to each child’s age and gender.

CONTRIBUTIONS: Send donations to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112. Checks should be made out to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund. Contributions are also accepted at the newspaper’s offices on the fifth floor at One City Center in Portland and online. Donations of securities are also accepted.

DONORS: Names of donors will be published in the Press Herald/Telegram and listed on

This year, for Christmas, I would like ..."

It's the typical opening for untold thousands of letters each December for the past two centuries. Tucked inside the envelopes, marked "North Pole," are the Christmas wishes of boys and girls.

For the past 61 years, similar letters have been mailed by adults with Christmas wishes that hit a little closer to home. They're sent to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, which works to provide a bit of holiday cheer for families that have fallen on hard times and need assistance to provide toys and clothing for their children, who might otherwise go without at Christmas.

The fund is made possible by readers of The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram. Some of those donors later find themselves in need of help.

"When I was a young girl, I would send some of my birthday money in to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund. The lessons I learned about giving have always been with me," wrote one mother of three in Gorham, who 20 years later finds herself in need of a helping hand to make Christmas morning a little more special for her three children, ages 5, 3 and 8 months.

The woman and her husband work full time, plus any available extra hours, just to make ends meet. But they are living from paycheck to paycheck, with precious little left over each week.

"Although times are tough financially, we are a very happy family. My husband and I have been together for 12 years and our children are wonderful, polite and friendly. We saved our spare change all year to buy a tree. Now, we need some help in putting a few pretty packages beneath it," wrote the mom.

An unemployed stone mason from Rockport also needs help to put gifts under the tree this year. He wrote, "I'm writing this letter with a lump in my throat while swallowing my stupid pride. I have been unable to find work for 14 months and have run out of unemployment benefits. I do not want to, nor do I know how to, tell my 6-year-old daughter why there will be no presents under the tree for her and her brother. I will cut the tree down from my yard and hang my pride over the mantel. I'm asking the Bruce Roberts Fund for help for my children and me."

A 33-year-old mother in Portland, who wrote to Santa as a child, now finds herself living back at her parents' home this Christmas, her 8-year-old daughter in tow. Mother and child need regular medical care. The mother, a diabetic, needs dialysis and help in administering her many medications, and the girl needs help for a heart defect that requires monthly doctor's visits.

"My parents are already helping with our care," said the young mom. "They can't supply Christmas gifts, too. I just want to see my daughter smile on Christmas morning."

Those sentiments are echoed by a single mother from Old Orchard Beach who is seeking help to make this Christmas merrier for her three sons, ages 1, 5 and 17.

A college graduate who cannot find work in her field of study, the mom waitresses to put food on the table while attempting to pay bills that far exceed her monthly income.

"I have student loans to pay back and major medical expenses from my oldest son's heart surgery," she said, noting that the boy likely will need a heart transplant in a few years.

(Continued on page 2)

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