The Press Herald Toy Fund continues to seek and receive donations, and one arrived last week with a tribute to the humble newspaperman who co-founded the charity 70 years ago.

South Portland-based Unity Lodge #3 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows donated $500 with a note that reads: “In Memory of Bruce Roberts.”

The gift-giving program began in December 1949 when Portland’s assistant welfare director, Matthew Barron, knew that many local parents were struggling financially and their children were not going to receive Christmas presents.

Barron reached out to a friend, Robert Bruce Beith, an editor at the former Portland Evening Express who wrote a news column under the pen name Bruce Roberts, his first and middle names reversed. The two men decided that Beith, as his alter ego Bruce, would ask his readers for donations and Barron would use the money to buy toys for children in need.

The Evening Express, formerly a sister paper of the Press Herald, launched the effort on Dec. 9, 1949, under the headline, “What to do about it: 1,000 face Santa-less Christmas.” They raised nearly $4,000 the first year and provided gifts to more than 1,500 kids. Barron and Beith kept at it year after year, and the name Bruce Roberts became synonymous with the annual toy fund drive.

What is now called the Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is still known by many as the Bruce Roberts fund. To some keepers of the legacy at the Press Herald, it is simply Bruce.

The fund is still in need of cash donations from readers to sustain the charity as it moves into its seventh decade helping Maine families.

Donations received during the holiday season are published in the newspaper, and those that have not yet been published will be listed in a future edition of the newspaper and online. Financial support also is accepted year-round and ensures that the fund will have the resources to buy gifts the next year.

TODAY’S DONATIONS

D&G Employees Donation  $500
Mary Ann Underkoffler  $25
Karl & Beth Jacobsen  $250
In memory of Bruce Roberts, from Unity Lodge #3 IOOF  $500
Barbara & Scott Marr  $100
Anonymous  $50
Peter & Jennifer Chase  $50
Year to date: $125,246.40


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