Matthew Barron was a true public servant, in a way that went well beyond his career working for the city of Portland.

Barron is remembered each year by many who donate to the Press Herald Toy Fund, including a family member whose gift is listed below. And, in a sense, he is the inspiration behind all of the donations to the fund over the past 72 years.

Matthew Barron

Barron was Jesuit-educated, graduating from Cheverus High School in Portland and Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He went to work in the city’s welfare department in 1934 and two years later became assistant director. That’s the job he held the winter of 1949, when a recession meant many of the families he worked with had no money to buy gifts for their children.

Welfare programs don’t buy holiday gifts for kids today, and they didn’t then. It wasn’t his job to solve that problem, but Barron had the idea to raise some money from more fortunate members of the community to bring some joy to the kids were weren’t as lucky.

He and his friend, Evening Express Editor Robert Bruce Beith, decided to ask newspaper readers for donations to buy toys. Beith made the appeals in a newspaper column written under the pen name Bruce Roberts.

Family members have recalled how Barron personally purchased and packaged the toys for years. He had helpers right from the start, but he also sometimes worked until midnight as the holiday approached to deliver toys to needy families.


That idea would become what is now the Press Herald Toy Fund. But is not the only lasting legacy of Barron’s public service.

Barron was promoted to welfare director in 1950 and was also was named head of Portland’s City Hospital, which at the time was a gloomy complex known locally as “the poor farm.”

His wife, Evelyn, was a registered nurse and the Matron of Nurses at the hospital. Together, Matthew and Evelyn Barron had a vision of what the hospital could become and led its transformation into a modern nursing care institution for the elderly and handicapped. The Brighton Avenue facility was eventually renamed the “Matthew I. and Evelyn A. Barron Center.”

Barron retired in 1974. He later served on the City Council, including as mayor from 1976 to 1978.

And until he died in 1980, Barron remained the chairman of the toy fund and personally led the annual effort to brighten the holidays.

Beith, the fund’s co-founder, would years later credit Barron with understanding not only the need for the charity, but also the community’s desire to help.


“Matt Barron always said that the people of the area would never fail the fund drive,” Beith said.

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


In memory of the Graham Family; Ellen, Donald, & Alden, from Patty Graham $50
In memory of my parents, Ralph Jr & Janet L King, from their son $100
Happy & Healthy Holidays! Stella & Family! $100
Given in honor of grandchildren, from Peter Haynes $500
In memory of my great uncle, Matthew Barron, co-founder of the Toy Drive, from David Donovan $50
Gordon Slocum $100
Pam & John Fridlington $250
In honor of Victoria Hugo-Vidal, from Joan & Dick Searles $100
Happy Holidays from Charlie $100
Anonymous $50
Ann & Greg $100
In memory of our dear friend, Brenda Joy Fraser. Her spirit will always be dancing in the hearts of those who loved her. MHS ladies Group. $160
In memory of Margaret Gardiner, an amazing aunt who enjoyed sharing holiday fun! $200
A blessed Christmas, from John & Corinne Bernat. $50
Anonymous $100
In honor of Monique $50
Anonymous $100
In memory of Chris Foley. From Joe, Donna, Pat, & Jackie $100
In honor of Sawyer J Stone $50
In memory of Matthew S Stone $50
Noel Tracy $100
Anonymous $50
Barbara Stanley $100
Anonymous $1000
Anonymous $100
Anonymous $50
Warmest holiday wishes! Tom & Judy Sides $300
Don & Christine $250
The Glasbergs $100
Aidan & Reid Sylvester $100
On behalf of Joel Lindy. ADT and CAT $100
Anonymous $50
Merry Christmas to all! $500
Anonymous $30
Ruth & Hank Foundation $200
This is the proceeds from our CE class Fundraiser for the Real Estate Learning Group. $2134.53
Eloise Knowles $30
In memory of Derek & Eric, from Mom & Dad $50
The Kline family of Cape Elizabeth $200
Margaret Cekuta $30
Patricia Washburn $100
Anonymous $100

YEAR-TO-DATE TOTAL: $151,475.53

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