The letters that arrive to the Press Herald Toy Fund can be heartbreaking. And, while most parents ask that their personal stories not be shared, the letters taken together are a reflection of the times.

During down economic cycles, the common theme is job loss. In overheated real estate markets, it’s evictions and homelessness. Last year, for unknown reasons, there was a noticeable increase in letters from families escaping domestic violence.

This year, of course, it’s  COVID-19, which seems to have made all of the other problems significantly worse.

“It’s all the different ways that life has been made more difficult,” said Kathleen Meade, the toy’s fund’s director. “The past year has affected everything.”

Meade knows how much families are struggling from reading all the letters. But the point was driven home Thursday in the middle of an intense snowstorm that caused whiteout conditions and dropped two feet of powder on southern Maine.

Meade had put out word to families that applied for help that toy pick-ups were canceled because of the storm. But she worried that people might show up at the toy fund warehouse anyway, so she ventured out to check.

And, as feared, some parents were so worried about not having gifts for their children at the holidays that there was a line of cars waiting.

So, as snow piled up outside, Meade and a volunteer opened up the warehouse and brought out the gifts.

“We didn’t want them to make another trip,” 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. Now in its 71st year, 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.

TODAY’S DONATIONS:

Merry Christmas! $150
Soko Kidman $200
In honor of Debbie & Nate Wentworth. Merry Christmas! $50
In memory of my mother! If it wasn’t for Bruce Roberts, we wouldn’t have had a Christmas! Thank you for all you do. $100
In honor of Meg Smith $100
In memory of my Dad, and my sister Donna, who loved Christmas and family! From Jean Kerrigan $40
Donation inspired by Victoria Hugo-Vidal, from Tony & Peg DeBruyn $250
In loving memory of my father, William Wigmore. From Diane Morabito $500
So more children can have a wonderful Christmas! Steve & Jane Martin $400
Anonymous $250
Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season $500
In memory of my Mom, Becky Rideout $30
Jonathan & Denise Keene $20
Peace & Love $100
Michael & Margaret LaCombe $100
In memory of Joseph & Mary Patterson, from Paul & Sharron Roczynski $20
In memory of my Great Uncle Matthew Barron, founder of the Toy Fund, from David Donovan $50
Bob & Micki Parechanian $50
In memory of Uncle Xavier Fuentes, Grampy Tracey Giroux, Grandpa Lara, from Adrian $10
Merry Christmas to all of our precious Portland families, from Claudette Greene and family $100
June McCormack $200
Remembering Sean Connolly, from Kier and Erik $30
Stephanie Eckersley-Ray $50
In memory of Charlotte Lacrosse from Susan and Barbara, the Norton Altshuler family $125
In memory of Charlotte La Crosse, by William and Amanda Leque $50
In lieu of Christmas cards, we are sending our love to you for little ones, from Paul & Mary Clough $200
Anonymous $100
In memory of Charlotte Louise Lacrosse, from Shirley Dunham $20
Anonymous $20
Merry Christmas & a Healthy New Year! Eastern Shore Home Improvement $200
Happy Holidays! From the Portland Longshoremen’s Benevolent Society – ILA Local 861 $250
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $100
Anonymous $100
Anonymous $50
Merry Christmas to all! $500
Anonymous $100
Best co-workers around! Jeff, Amy, Nick, Rick and Tim. Thanks for everything and Merry Christmas! Shelly $100
In memory of Rita Baltas from Limerick, on her birthday! Ted Baltas $50
In memory of Harry Burnham from Limerick. From Ted Baltas $50
In loving memory of Charlotte Louise Lacrosse, from Marijo Molloy Campbell $30
In memory of Charlotte L. Lacrosse, from Richard & Irene Maxcy  $50
In memory of Judy Neal $100
The Oehrlein family $100
For Margaret, who loved Christmas. Kate and Jack Mann $50
Merry Christmas! $20

Year-to-date total: $187,136.25

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