It happened again for a 69th straight year.

Donations from readers and local businesses allowed the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund to provide holiday gifts for about 3,700 Maine children who otherwise might have gone without them because of hardships faced by their families.

The demand for help was actually higher this year than last year, according to Kathleen Meade, who has been executive director of the nonprofit charity for more than 15 years.

“It’s just the economy,” Meade said. While many affluent families have prospered in recent years, the economy also has been unforgiving to less wealthy families pushed to the financial brink by illnesses, injuries, divorces or other misfortune.

The two sides of the economy were especially evident in letters to the fund about how rising rents, fueled by greater wealth at the top of the market, forced a number of families to ask for help this year so their children could have gifts to unwrap. Meade recalled one letter, for example, from a divorced mother of four children who said the rent increases not only left her with no money for Christmas gifts, but also forced her out of her home and into publicly subsidized housing.

The toy fund is continuing to seek donations to cover its costs and keep the 69-year-old tradition alive.

Meade said she’s seen many familiar names on the checks flowing in this year, and many new ones. The fund is still short of the $130,000 raised last year, although donations are expected to flow in through Jan. 1, she said.

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. Founded in 1949, the fund is accepting applications for toys from needy families in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Lincoln 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, call 791-6672 or go to: pressheraldtoyfund.org.

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

TODAY’S DONATIONS

Sonia & Leonard Tracy $100

Brenda & David Houdlette $25

In loving memory of Mike & Teddy Dickey, who loved both children and Christmas. The Ruels $100

Merry Christmas! Brayden, Ava, Will and Harper. $30

In memory of 41 who cared about Maine kids $41

In memory of Albert Nelson $25

Merry Christmas, the Kingsley family $25

In honor of Daniel Sullivan, headmaster of Breakwater School where children have fine adventures and develop curiosity for life. $50

Merry Christmas! Finnegan, Abbie, Declan, and Julia $25

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

Bet Foster $100

In memory of Roy Lutz $50

Year to date: $100,690.40