Many of the parents writing letters to the Press Herald Toy Fund have similar stories about what forced them to ask for help.

It’s often an illness or the loss of a job. A surprising number, though, have shared stories about the unforgiving housing market.

Losing an apartment because of a property sale or a rent hike can be difficult to bounce back from in a tight market with little or no affordable housing available. And those housing challenges, like the other hardships, are all the more difficult to overcome amid the pandemic.

A mother from central Maine with three school-age sons wrote to the toy fund about the family’s struggle to find housing and why it means she needs help giving her children holiday gifts.

“My family and I are struggling this year,” she wrote.

“We had to move from a motel room to a homeless shelter because I could not afford the weekly rent. (We have) just my income because my fiance is disabled and trying to get disability (benefits). He cannot work. My fiance, three kids and myself are staying at the shelter.”

Her first priority is getting her family out of the shelter and into an apartment, she said.

“It breaks my heart that we have to be here and to see how embarrassed my boys are to be here,” she wrote. “I cannot touch any of my savings until we get an apartment … I have no extra money to spend on Christmas presents for the boys.”

“We got a housing voucher in May and have been trying to find an apartment since then but because of COVID there really isn’t any housing and the (landlords who have units) are not accepting  vouchers. So we have been stuck here, and if I do not find a place by January 7, my voucher runs out and I have to start all over again.”

And, like all the parents who write to the toy fund, she asks only that her children can experience the joy of opening gifts at the holidays. Wherever they are housed, her boys will be among more than 3,000 children who will receive gifts this year because of readers who donate to the fund.

“Thank you so much.”

Donations from readers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Sun Journal in Lewiston and The Times Record in Brunswick allow the toy fund to provide gifts to thousands of children in need in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties. To help, go to pressherald.com/toy-fund.

TODAY’S DONATIONS

In memory of Lora A. Lemanski from Adam, Luke, Nicole, Ava, Willa and Frank $100
In memory of our loving mom, Sharon I. Burgess, who always took as many tags off a giving tree as possible. Miss you lots, your Burgess Bunch $100
In loving memory of Johnna Libby “Everyone’s Mom.” We miss you everyday $100
Cathy Holt $50
Anonymous $40
In loving memory of my cousins: Michael and Robbie, Berry, Peter Scala, David Hill and Mark Cyr. Love, Anne $125
Anonymous $50
In loving memory of my dad, Louis Scala. Love, Anne $100
In loving memory of Evelyn Nordstrom & Bob Nordstrom. Love Jeff & Anne $100
In memory of the Lamarre and Gaudreau families. From Rachel Lamarre $30
In loving memory of Mary & Ted Sottery. From Ellen Sottery McCarty $100
Wishing you a magical holiday season! From Sarah & Nathan Kimble $50
Anonymous $20
Dave, Pam & Patrick $100
In loving memory of our parents, Kay & Ed Blouin, and Harlan & Irene Wallace. Merry Christmas to all! Dave & Kathy Blouin $100
Anonymous $100
Hugh & Mary Smith $100
In memory of David Styles $150
Carol & Jack Flynn $100
In honor of Lux Clementine, XO Auntie Eva $100
We wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season. Oh, and have fun!! Dan & Ellen $50
From Lady Bug, Charlie and Marley $100
Because every child deserves happiness on Christmas! Ben, Deb and Claire $50
Anonymous $100
Merry Christmas! From the O’Malley Family $150
Merry Christmas to all! In memory of Uncle Tommy, from Tim & Mary Follo $200
Anonymous $150
In loving memory of our sister Lisa, who really loved Christmas! From Nancy & Tim $50
Holiday blessings! $100
Merry Christmas! Barbara & Jay Bock $250
May the Christmas spirit fill all children with joy and wonder! Babbo Natale $200
Merry Christmas! From Paul & Wendy Coleman $50
Kenneth Spirer & Joan Leitzer $100
In loving memory of my husband, Norm, at Christmas, from Bev $100
In memory of Estelle Snell $100
In memory of Aunt Millie and Uncle Rupie $100
In memory of Harold & Jo Richardson $100
In memory of Guy, from the Gautier/Johnson family $200
Merry Christmas! Ellen & Jeff Worthing $100
In honor of Sue & Morrell Crawford, from the Conley Family $50
Childhood is short. Enjoy! From Barbara Rachel $100
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $50

TOTAL TO DATE: $88,219

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