The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund just handed out thousands of toys and gifts for a 68th consecutive holiday season, thanks in part to the sister act of Nancy Chamberlain and Barbara Judge.

The siblings are part of the small army of volunteers who provide the labor that, when combined with the generous cash donations from readers, has kept the spirit of the holidays alive for struggling families since 1949.

While those volunteers have mostly wrapped up their work, donations are still flowing and are still needed to keep the charity going. In only a few short months, in fact, the shopping begins for next year’s toys.

Chamberlain and Judge volunteered at the toy warehouse for a third straight year, a tradition that began when they both retired.

Chamberlain is a retired legal assistant who lives in South Portland and Judge is a retired Lyseth Elementary School teacher who lives in Portland.

“I grew up here and I just remember reading about (the toy fund) as a child. It always sort of fascinated me that they did these things,” Chamberlain said.

“You start to do all these things because you need to stay busy, and then you realize all the need out there. There’s a lot of people out there in need and it feels good to help them.”

Chamberlain said she has been impressed by the quality of the gifts that the fund provides, and she said the parents who come to the warehouse are often overwhelmed when the gifts are brought out to them, sometimes piled in shopping carts.

“They’re so thrilled to see what they’re receiving,” she said. “There was one man who had several children and when he saw what was for him (to take home), he got kind of emotional and said, ‘Do you mean I get a whole shopping cart for my kids?’ He was really sweet.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts uses donations from readers to provide toys for 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 provides new age-appropriate toys to needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Donations received during the holiday season are published in the newspaper and keep the fund going year after year. Donations also are accepted year-round and ensure that the fund will have the resources to buy gifts the next year.

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.

DONATIONS

In memory of Paul Sferes, from Jeanette $300

Elizabeth and Emily Ehrenfeld $50

Betsy and Bruce $50

In memory of our grandparents Blanche and Joe Capelluti, from Jill and Andrew $50

In loving memory of Dad, Gram, and Nana. Merry Christmas! Deb $200

In memory of Helen and Alice Robinson $75

In memory of Diana Candage, my mother, from Pamela C. Ames $30

In memory and with thanks to Gam and Bump $25

Barry Unnold $500

In memory of Nana, Papa, and Grampa $100

Bryan and Jennifer Shumway $500

F/V Maria and Dorothy and Captain Rich Odlin and crew $100

In memory of our parents, who set examples for their children every day. Carol (Art) Riley $30

Anonymous $30

Larry Pixley & Robin Ratcliffe $150

Anonymous $100

Anonymous $30

Year to date: $115,150.18