The 50 or so volunteers at the Press Herald Toy Fund are busy at work, processing requests for help, sorting toys and preparing to distribute gifts to the grateful parents of thousands of Maine children who, despite all kinds of family struggles, will still share the joy of opening holiday gifts.

But missing among the “elves” this year is one loyal helper who had a soft spot for children in need and a knack for fixing things around the workshop.

Jon Hebert worked at the toy fund warehouse each holiday season for many years, usually twice a week. He died in January at the age of 75 after a brief illness, and his cheerful, 6-foot-2-inch presence is missed this year at the workshop.

“He was known here for figuring out solutions to problems,” said Executive Director Kathleen Meade. One time, for example, he made risers for the tables used to pack toys so it wasn’t necessary for people to bend over so much if they were tall, as he was.

Hebert began volunteering when he retired and truly was happy to help, said his wife, Priscilla.

“He enjoyed meeting the people and helping hand out the packages (to parents). He liked that a lot and he liked doing odd jobs, too. He was very handy anyway,” she said.

Jon and Priscilla Hebert were longtime supporters of the fund, going back to the days when they were growing up in Westbrook. He served in the U.S. Navy as a submariner and later worked for S.D. Warren. He was an outdoorsman and had the imagination of an inventor, always working on a project and solving problems. He and his wife had four children and, when he died in January, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The toy fund was founded in 1949 when Jon and Priscilla Hebert were 7 years old. And she’s glad he was able to help keep it going as a volunteer.

“I remember that when I was a kid,” she said. “The high school organizations that I belonged to always contributed. When we were married and had children, we contributed.

“It’s been part of our lives. … I’m glad that the fund still continues after all these years.”

THE PRESS HERALD TOY FUND in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts uses 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. Now in its 69th year, the fund is accepting applications for toys from needy families in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Lincoln and Knox counties.

APPLICATIONS can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 or 791-6600 to have one mailed to you.

DONATIONS to help buy the toys can be made at 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.


SEE MORE STORIES about the fund at


David and Sandra Michniewicz $50

Anonymous $20

Anonymous $100

In memory of Bob and Elizabeth $200

In memory of our parents: Ed and Ruby Lothrop, and Joe and Gladys Labbe, from Dick & Barbara Labbe $20

Gram’s girls $40

Mari Miya $50

Maggie, Molly and the girls $30

Marsh Agency $250

Peter L. Murray $100

Happy Holidays! Dot Kelleher $125

Paul & Stephanie Castle $50

In loving memory of Grandma Dot, from the Irish family $100

In memory of Allison Broadbent Beahm, Love, Mom and Dad $50

Anonymous $200

In loving memory of Scott, from Lyndsay $25

From the Bennett/Snyder family $100

In memory of EBA $100

In memory of James K. Donahue, Love, Mary and Frank Blanchard $100

Anonymous $200

Marcia E. Blake $50

From Pop $40

Judith and David Kelly $300

Family Campers and RVs, Pine Tree Chapter $100

Anonymous $28

In loving memory of Uncle Bob, from the Miller family $75

Mark Kingston $220

Michael Curci $100

Total for the year: $19,142

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.