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The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund has been supporting families by making winters happier for children since 1949. The Fund used to be known as the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, a reference to the pen name of the Portland Evening Express editor who started the program. Now in its 75th year, the Fund continues its original mission, providing toys to children in every community in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties. Thousands of children, ages 0 to 16, benefit every year with age-appropriate toys supplied through generous donations from Fund supporters.


The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund began in December 1949, when Matthew I. Barron was Portland’s assistant welfare director. Barron knew that many local parents were struggling financially and that many of their children wouldn’t be getting Christmas presents.

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

Their idea worked even better than expected. 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.

Today, the full name of the program is “The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts.” A registered nonprofit, it provides gifts to thousands of children each year in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Androscoggin counties.

The fund has outlived both Barron and Beith, who said near the end of his life that he never expected so many readers would “keep the contributions rolling in with their only reward being the vision of children’s happy faces when they opened their presents, and their parents’ happiness in knowing that someone out there cares.”


The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund works to make holidays happy for thousands of children in Maine. The Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization (tax ID 01-0361298) so donations are tax-deductible. Although our major focus for receiving donations remains November and December, we do accept donations throughout the year. The easiest way to donate is by clicking here. You can also send a check to:

Press Herald Toy Fund
295 Gannett Drive
South Portland, ME 04106

Lists of donors with dedications will be posted during late November and December in the newspaper, online and on Facebook.

Please consider a donation at any time through the year. As a donor, you are responsible for thousands of smiles! Thank you!

Contact us at:
Phone: 207-791-6672

Help with fundraising or lend a hand packing and distributing gifts