Christmas music plays softly in the background and it’s peaceful in the Press Herald Toy Fund warehouse.
For much of the past few weeks, the place was bustling as truckloads of toys were unloaded and dozens of volunteers scrambled to organize the deliveries inside a vacant retail warehouse. Boxes were stacked from floor to ceiling and reinforcements arrived to help unpack and sort the toys into bins, each one marked for boys and girls of different ages, from infants to teenagers.
Empty boxes were broken down and hauled away. Shipping pallets were stacked to the side or turned into waist-high walls to help contain piles of toys and to spruce up the warehouse for the arrival of some very important visitors. In between toy sorting, volunteers made paper snowflakes to decorate the front windows and doors.
But, on this morning, a soft snow is falling outside and all is calm inside as relieved parents arrive to pick up the toys that have set aside for their children.
About a dozen women and men quietly wait for their turns as six volunteers wearing holiday sweaters and name tags keep the toys coming, picking from the bins and filling orders. “Three-year-old girl … 5-year-old boy. …” The volunteers check in each parent, and then double-check the orders before the toys are presented in bulging opaque bags (the kind children can’t see through).
One young mother pushes in a stroller with two infants sitting side by side, looking around wide-eyed at the activity. She leaves with several bags of toys, including some she will give her older children. “Thank you!” she says. “Merry Christmas!”
It is a frequent refrain. Volunteers say giving out toys and seeing the joy and relief on parents’ faces is a big reason they come back every year.
It also is reminder of the need, and why the work is important, they say.
Each parent represents a family and children who are going through tough times of some kind. One mother recently came to pick up toys and was searching for her ID to show a volunteer when she offered a court order that she had just gotten to protect her family from domestic violence.
But, mostly, those troubles seem far away on this morning at the warehouse, where all is bright as parents look forward to seeing their children’s smiles on Christmas.
Outside in the parking lot, two women stand behind the open trunk of a car and peak into one of the bags. “Oh, they’re going to love this!” one says.
From the folks at Sevee & Maher Engineers Inc. $610
Chebeague Island Fire Department $310
Skillin School Student Council – Merry Christmas! $150
Dan & Ellen Richards $150
In memory of Stella & Butch Bennett $100
In honor of Nathan Eloian from David and Mark $100
Nonantum Resort Staff $250
Best Wishes from Drumlin Environmental $150
In memory of Laurence S. Allen Sr. & Lou F. (Allen) Nichols. From Beverly, Missy, Larry, Donna & Lonnie Allen $50
In memory of Mom & Pop Perry, from Beverly & Lonnie Allen $50
In memory of Mrs. Sally Simpson, from Beverly & Lonnie Allen $50
In memory of John & Agrippina Powell $100
In memory of Bill & Max $100
With love, in honor of our first grandchild, Wil. Margaret & Skip $250
Merry Christmas! Sandee & Jeff Greenleaf $25
In honor of Jonah and Ellie, my grandchildren $100
In memory of Cynthia Lawhorn Oja…the love goes on. $50
In memory of Nona, from Shailah, Cal, Otis, Marina and Ives Myrbeck $100
In memory of our parents Anna & Domenico Floridino & Philis Peverada. Angie & Tony Peverada $100
In honor of the late Shadow, Zorro & Rocky $150
In memory of William (Billy) Lappin $50
Inovingmemory of Richard William Hall, Ann Hardy Hall, Doris Cecelia Hardy & Patricia Jean Hall/Benner, from Deborah Hall & Clay Graybeal $75
As a gift to help the less fortunate, in honor of my three great-grandchildren, of whom I am so proud. From Frances Boothby $100
Merry Christmas from The Riverside Ladies Golfers Association $625
In memory of Grampy Casey, Nickademis, Madeline and Erastus. From Julie Otte $30
Wishing Peace & Love to all on Christmas & every day. From Denise K. $75
In loving memory of my mother, who loved giving gifts $100
In memory of Marissa Kennedy – Mary Nasse $30
Nick and Vanessa Marcoux $50
Merry Christmas!! From the Sessions $40
In memory of Sandra, from Mary E. Plouffe $100
In honor of Lyla Wilson. Love, Papa & Grammy $250
Josie Wizla, age 7, Newburyport, Mass. $7
Merry Christmas to the children of Maine! $250
In loving memory of Polly Mahan from Marni Maynard $100
William Merten $100
Happy Holidays! Mr. & Mrs. Marc Farris $100
For Gramma, Kirsten and WooWoo. From Peter R. Terhune $50
In memory of my mother, Elfriede Bamford, who loved Christmas, from P. Bamford-Crilley $30
Lee Humphreys $20
The Ertman family $100
Year to date $106,677.50