When it comes to needs and wants during the holiday season, parents have little choice but to focus on needs.

For many families in southern Maine that means paying the mortgage or making the rent each month so they can live in a safe community and the children can have a normal, wholesome upbringing.

In these lean times, that can be a struggle that leaves little money for anything else.

“We purchased our home two years ago and since have been budgeting to the penny with no extras and are receiving help from family members each month to keep our home,” writes a Sebago woman in her application letter to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund. Her husband has a full-time job but they cannot afford special treats – like Christmas presents – for their preschool-age daughter.

The Bruce Roberts Toy Fund can help, providing a holiday boost by brightening the Christmas season with gifts for youngsters who might not otherwise get them.

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.

Delinquencies and foreclosures climb during this time of year, even though state programs are in place to help, said Dale McCormick, director of the Maine State Housing Authority.

The people who are struggling heroically to avoid foreclosure or eviction are to be admired, she said.

A South Portland couple with a 7-year-old son writes that they took a financial risk, moving from a crime-infested neighborhood in Portland to a more suburban neighborhood, where they have a yard and their son can play outside.

The expenses are higher and coming up with the security deposit and paying to move have depleted what savings they had.

“I thought moving would be the best Christmas present for my family. I just hope it won’t be the only one,” writes the father.

A Lebanon mother of four writes that her husband lost his job this summer and she’s trying to complete her bachelor’s degree.

“This assistance would help my family so that instead of purchasing presents for my children I can focus on paying my mortgage and other essential bills,” she says.

Home ownership is more than just a place to stay, McCormick said. It is the most important investment for a middle class family and Maine people have a history of doing what it takes to avoid losing their house.

It’s important to support that effort, she said.

Even though housing ranks up there with food and clothing in terms of the most basic of needs, the pressure on parents to please their children can be intense.

“It’s totally hard to resist that and say ‘no,’” said McCormick, also a parent. “You want the best for your kids. You want to give them food and clothing and shelter and you want to have them feel secure, happy and connected.”


Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]


Here are the latest donations to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund: 

Previously acknowledged: $59,950.54

Merry Christmas to our kids — South Portland Golf Boosters $1,500

Scarborough Lions Club $500

Barry and Patricia Unnold $400

Couleur Collection, November 26-28 Event $1,215.70

John R. and Helen M. Huard $1,000

The 10 Gorman Grandkids $1,000

Cumberland County Employees $731

Westbrook High School Spanish Club $500

The Iggy S. Schwartz family $300

Friends of Bruce Roberts, South Portland $685

In memory of Charlie “Santa” Kilbride — Greg MacDowell, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 197 Westbrook $100

To honor the Technical Operations Team at Wright Express Corp. from The “TOPS” Leadership Team $400

Anthony and Staci Dill $500

Fore River Dock and Dredge Inc. $250

Vreeland Marketing and Design $250

Merry Christmas from AM-AT-UER SERVICE $500

In memory of Marthann Hartford — Buzz and Sandra Hartford $50

Merry Christmas — Joyce & Bill $200

Employees of United Insurance — Falmouth location jeans day fund $200

Civil Rights Team, Memorial Middle School South Portland $250

In memory of deceased Lions — South Portland Lions Club $700

In loving memory of George and Lee $1,000

Brian and Erin, wonderful grandchildren $25

Avery Yale Kamila $100

Anonymous $100

Phyllis Lynn Reames $100

Shana Dimatteo $50

Marla and Matthew Muzzy $250

Merry Christmas — Lorraine Sarno $10

Best Wishes — Russell $250

In loving memory of our parents, William and Martha Horr — Dick, Jill and family $25

In loving memory of our parents, Miles and Roberta Thompson — Dick, Jill and family $25

On behalf of our three grandchildren: Gryphon, Zoe and Drake $25

A blessed Christmas — Jim and Jean Davis $25

Louis and Sharon Campbell $100

Merry Christmas — Charlie and Rita Tranter $25

In memory of E.B.A. $100

Merry Christmas — Kevin and Sheryl Jones $100

Port Property Management $250

In memory of my Richard — Irene Kerrigan $25

In the name of Christine Anderson $100

Ben Odom $150

Jane and Gary Farmer $50

John L. Adams $20

Anonymous $30

Anonymous $50

In honor of siblings. Merry Christmas — John and Kathy Leach $100

Paul Loring $100

BooCoo Bruce Roberts Auction $1,454.82

In memory of the late Eddie Gillis and his late son, Mark — Edward Gillis $100

In memory of Ms. Mary E. McCue, RN — Edward Gillis $100

Today’s total: $16,071.52

Total to date: $76,022.06