Maria Castellano-Usery has been brightening the world around her with colorful paintings for years. But she wanted to do more, so she created the charity paint-a-thon.

Once every month, the Brunswick-based artist sets up her easel in a public place, breaks out her acrylics and a blank 8-inch-by-8-inch canvas and starts painting. She keeps painting for eight hours until she ends up with a work of art that she raffles off to raise money for a chosen charity.

The raffle actually takes place all day while she paints. Passersby can buy tickets for $5 each or three for $10. Half the proceeds goes to the charity of the month and half goes to Castellano-Usery.

Castellano-Usery also sells other paintings during her paint-a-thons, and she shares those proceeds with the charities, too.

So far, Catellano-Usery has raised more than $5,500 for a variety of good causes. She calls it Brushstrokes With Impact.

“I wanted to get my artwork out there and I wanted to do something constructive. It’s very easy to feel helpless and hopeless like you can’t have an impact,” she said. “This is a nice way for me to do what I do and help people at the same time.”

One of her chosen charities is the Press Herald Toy Fund, which Castellano-Usery said she likes because it’s a good cause that helps local families in a non-judgmental way.

Her third annual toy fund paint-a-thon happens Saturday. Castellano-Usery will be inside the Tontine Mall in Brunswick, near Indrani’s, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., painting away and raising money to help brighten the holidays for needy children.

THE PRESS HERALD TOY FUND in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts uses 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. Now in its 69th year, the fund is accepting applications for toys from needy families in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Lincoln and Knox counties.

APPLICATIONS can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 or 791-6600 to have one mailed to you.

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: pressheraldtoyfund.org.

SEE MORE STORIES about the fund at pressherald.com/press-herald-toy-fund/.

TODAY’S DONATIONS

Happy and healhy New Year to all! The Maine Podiatric Medical Association $100

Giovannini and Mascarenas $100

David and Suzanne Reid $100

On behalf of Dnl Weatherization & Construction. I had work done and they requested my payment be sent to the charity of my choice. Merry Chriatmas! $100

Jacob, Kristine and Alexis $30

In memory of those lost in the Conant, Reed, and McAloney families, from Dorothy and Ed McAloney $50

In memory of John and Eleanor MacKenzie $25

Walter and Judith Deskus $100

In memory of Alice Kerschner Hesper, from Patricia and Thomas Brigham $35

In memory of our son Steven R. Chamberlain $100

From Cassie, Haylee and Jamison $100

In honor of my sister Gina Norton from Mary Jane Norton $50

William Poole $75

Marlene Howard $50

Happy Holidays! Kim Connell $50

Best from Bob’s Welding Services family $200

McCormick and Bouchard Eyecare $150

The Putnam Family $250

Year to date:  $57,649


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