Gillian Graham, Staff Writer
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Santa Bil does what he does simply because he likes it.

“Santa Bil” Moriarty – known for giving Christmas gifts to low-income children – runs Santa Bil’s Workshop, a small nonprofit.

Santa Bil’s Workshop provides gifts and decorations to families across York County and, starting this year, in Portland. Last year, gifts went to 507 children whose parents don’t qualify for help from larger programs.

This year Santa Bil expects to help 700 children.

“Nobody should go without a Christmas or holiday,” Moriarty said. “It’s insane to think that happens, but we know it does. I was that kid.”

Moriarty, 38, grew up in Portland, the only child of a single mother who worked three jobs.

“I knew it was a struggle for my mom. She did her best to make sure I had a Christmas, but there were some years it was a couple stocking stuffers and a toy,” Moriarty said. “But I knew kids who were poorer than we were. They didn’t get toys, they didn’t have Christmas trees.”

Moriarty, a father of three, started the project when he met Charlotte Bourgault, who ran the In-A-Pinch non-food pantry and started the toy giveaway. Seven years ago, Moriarty was fresh out of rehab and new to Biddeford.

“She told me I needed to work hard and help as many people as I can,” Moriarty said. “It was something I put my heart and soul into.”

Bourgault died as Moriarty prepared for the third toy giveaway in 2009. The loss, coupled with a decision by In-A-Pinch to no longer hold the program, was heartbreaking, but also strengthened Moriarty’s resolve to keep Santa Bil’s Workshop going.

“I always knew his heart was in the right place,” said Mayor Alan Casavant. “Because of his love of kids and his love of community, he now has a solid program that does good work.”

Last year, the program raised $2,000 and collected donations of toys, decorations and cash. This year, Moriarty set a fundraising goal of $2,500. He has been collecting toys for weeks and will hold a “stuff the bus” event at Market Basket on Saturday.

Moriarty said it has been his dream to bring Santa Bil’s Workshop to Portland.

“Now I get to go back there and give back to a town that took care of me,” he said.

For more information, visit www.santabil.org.