A single mother in the midcoast is managing to support her 4-year-old son and go to school full time with the salary she earns as a seasonal waitress and student loans.

But buying Christmas gifts for her son is a different matter, and she sent a letter to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund this month asking for help so he can experience the same joy as other children.

The mother and her son live with her parents, essentially paying rent by helping to take care of her father, who has dementia. Her mother helps care for the boy while she attends classes toward an associate degree and a career in behavioral health care. She waitresses in the summer, and gets by year-round on an average monthly income of about $400.

It works out much of the time, she says, although buying the gas for a car trip from Brunswick to Wiscasset can eat up any extra money for that week. When her son recently got involved with soccer, he quickly noticed the other kids had cleats and shin guards, so she scraped together money to buy him gear.

Last week, she said, she had a conversation with her son about the meaning of Christmas.

“I talked to him about how it’s not about presents, (but) it’s about giving and showing we love each other and how it’s about the birth of Jesus,” she said.

At the same time, she said, there’s a lot of pressure and she doesn’t want him to feel left out, overlooked or undeserving.

And she’s confident she will someday pay it back.

“We’re all in it together,” she said. “There are those that have a little more and those that have a little less, and everybody works together. That’s a good message to send.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using 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.

The fund – now in its 67th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties. Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Welcome Center desk on the fifth floor of One City Center in Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made on the website 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 and to donate online, go to: pressheraldtoyfund.org

See more stories about the fund.

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