Donations to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund are down so far this year even as demand for help is still going strong.

So now it’s the toy fund that’s asking for help.

Kathleen Meade, the fund’s director, said Wednesday that more donations are needed, and they don’t have to be big.

“We need more money,” she said, “but the original idea was that if everybody who could would donate $1, then a thousand children would receive a gift. So, if people who could would donate just $20 or $25 now, then that would help.”

Readers have donated $81,114 so far this year, compared to about $114,000 raised by this time last year.

Checks are still flowing into the fund, and there is still time for plenty of donations to make up some of that ground. Last year, another $46,000 in donations arrived after Dec. 21. But, it’s going to be difficult to catch up to last year’s total of $160,000, let alone reach the goal of $200,000 – a level that was routinely achieved before the recession that began in 2008.

At the same time, the fund’s volunteers are scrambling to keep up with the demand for help from parents who are facing hard times. Meade had to place a last-minute order for more toys in recent days as the stockpile of gifts for children under 4 years old was exceeded by the number of young children in need.

The drop in donations and strong demand for help are likely both reflections of an economy that hasn’t been generous to working families. Many of them now need help and many who don’t are simply less able to pitch in.

Meade also noticed that some of the larger donors of years ago no longer send checks of $1,000 or more. That may be because some of the original supporters of the 68-year-old charity are no longer around to help, and newer donors don’t have the same resources or personal connections to the fund.

No matter the reason for the decline in donations, all who asked for help this year are getting it and thousands of children are receiving holiday gifts because of the generosity of readers, Meade said. “We really appreciate that support.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Bruce Roberts was the pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at pressheraldtoyfund.org 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, go to: <URL destination=””>pressheraldtoyfund.org.

</URL>See more stories about the fund at pressherald.com/press-herald-toy-fund/.

TOY FUND DONATIONS

In lieu of gifts to Lenny, Michael & Jo-Anna, Larry & Mary, and Richard & Nancy $100

In memory of Bill Lappin $50

Robert & Suzanne Turkington $75

David Body & Elizabeth Miller $25

Anonymous $100

In loving memory of Mac & Ellie, from Carolyn Bowers $25

Narragansett Rebekah Lodge No. 145 $25

Christine Anderson $100

In memory of Gwennie and Dick $500

Marty Riehle & Janis Childs $100

In memory of Ellie Huston Strandburg $100

Merry Christmas from Lexie & Pennie in memory of Paws $500

In memory of Bill and Max $100

In memory of the feisty ones – Beulah Green and Alan Goddard, Muz and Pop $50

Winthrop Winch $50

The Schnapp/Almy family $100

Paul & Stephanie Castle $50

Alice Rohman $30

Lesley Ewald $35

In loving memory of Mom & Dad – Cliff & Gerry Ashley, from daughter Joan $20

In memory of our parents Anna & Domenico Floridino and Philis Peverada, from Tony & Angie Peverada $100

In memory of Paul $100

Steven & Julie Tselikis $50

In memory of Charlene Brochu Saucier, her love & light now fills the heavens. HBD Marshall & Carole $150

Louis & Paula Abbotoni $100

Love for Joann & Guy Rowe at Christmas & always, from Lisa, Lindy, Miranda & Carley $50

In memory of Chad, who loved Christmas $50

Ted & Doris Cook $100

In loving memory of Bill & Connie Murphy and Bob Carleton $25

Merry Christmas to all! Richard Steinmetz DPM and staff $100

In memory of loved ones, Dan & Lisa Randall $200

Augusten Thomas-Parker $100

In loving memory of Debra O’Brien who is greatly missed by her family $330

Philip J Pedro $100

Chris & Chris Newell $100

May your Christmas be the Greatest of All Time. Benjamin Padgett $500

Merry Christmas! Collin Harwood $100

May all the children have a happy Christmas! $500

In memory of mom, dad, Freddie, Eddie, and Paul $100

Year to date $81,114