Nonprofits have had to make lots of adjustments during the pandemic, finding new ways to operate safely and struggling to serve their communities at a time of historic needs and limited resources.

The Press Herald Toy Fund is no different.

An early start to the fundraising campaign, expanded coverage of the effort by the Sun Journal in Lewiston and The Times Record in Brunswick, and the generous spirit of readers who want to contribute in a difficult time are helping the toy fund meet the increased need as families struggle through the economic fallout from the pandemic.

But the toy fund also had to figure out a way to distribute toys for thousands of children without risking the health of the volunteers or the parents who pick up the gifts.

Some of the toys are delivered to different parts of the state by dozens of social services agencies that partner with the toy fund each year. But many parents also pick up toys from the central warehouse, and that is normally an emotional high-point for volunteers as they greet mothers and fathers who are visibly relieved and grateful for the help.

That handoff of gifts is a little different this year. One day early this week, a total of 68 parents visited the Freeport warehouse for the 2020 version of that operation: contact-free curbside pickups.

The parents had already received times to arrive for the pickups and instructions to stay in their cars and have their confirmation paperwork ready. Signs reminded them to keep windows rolled up and pop their trunks. Three teams of volunteers worked the line, reading the names through the closed car windows, retrieving the toys that match the children’s ages and placing them in the open trunks.

“It worked like a charm,” said executive director Kathleen Meade. “It’s all new to us.”

The COVID-safe handoffs that continue each day now lack the personal connections of years past. But they have a new meaning to the toy fund and its volunteers: The pandemic couldn’t stop them and, for a 71st year, gifts are on their way in time to bring joy to children at the holidays.

“It was a beautiful thing,” Meade 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. Now in its 71st year, the fund serves 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.

TODAY’S DONATIONS:

The Brady family $50
In memory of Dan DeRaspe, from Kathy DeRaspe Baltes $50
Susannah and Bud Stiker $100
In memory of Charlotte La Crosse, from D. McBride  $50
From Cindy and Molly $25
From a mom and grandma $50
John and Maxine Drew $30
Be kind. From my FSLETM and FBILMPM $100
In memory of Charlotte L. LaCrosse, from Kathy  $50
Anonymous $200
In loving memory of John & Alice Flaherty, from Alicia $25
In memory of Helen Flaherty, from Alicia $25
Anonymous $30
Cathy Holt $50
Happy Holidays! In lieu of gifts for Micah, Lincoln & Emilee, with their blessing $50
For the kids, from Cooper and Molly $50
From Mary and Bob $50
Anonymous $100
Warm wishes for a happy Christmas!  $250
Anonymous $50
We hope this brings some happiness to others this Christmas holiday  $100
Merry Christmas! Charlie & Cathy Toppi  $50
With love to all $100
Merry Christmas $200
In memory of Marie Brien who loved Christmas, and all children. From Kathie and Warren Giering $50
In loving memory of KJ, from M. Rosenzweig $36
Anonymous $30
Wishing Peace and joy to all. Chris R. $100
Paul & Wendy Coleman $30
I hope that your holidays are lots of fun! $50
Merry Christmas! The Eddy family $50
Anonymous $100
In loving memory of Ben & Starr Rice $200
In memory of Marshall I. Goodwin, from the Marshall I. Goodwin family $600
Elizabeth Warren-White $50
Betsy Peters $100
Anonymous $200
Thank you! Helen in Boothbay $30
Victoria and Ken Seifert $250
Thinking of those already in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season! The McQuinn DeLorme extended family $1000
Marni Maynard $50
Melissa Connors $50
In honor of Skillin Elementary $50
Grandpa Rock $100
In memory of Roy and Jody Murray $100
Happy holidays! $100
In loving memory of Paul LaHaye $100
Kathleen Welter $100
In memory of Uncle Matt & Aunt Evelyn Barron, from Joe & Rennie Donovan $50
Franny & Daniel Zolkha $250
Ho, Ho, Ho! $100
Remember that there is always someone who loves you $200
In memory of Susan Cote $20
Merry Christmas! $50
Anonymous $100
For all the children in Maine $100
Merry Christmas to the kids! Jeff and Judy Kane $250
In memory of DJS $200
In memory of the Lamarre and Gaudreau families, from Rachel $30
Merry Christmas to All! From Denise K. $100
Brenda & Allan Leo $100
Maine Orthodontics $250
Nana & Papa $50
Anonymous $100

Year-to-date total: $172,118.25

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