December 10, 2012

Little Wanderers exceeds goal for Christmas boxes, thanks to late flurry of donations

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- A last-minute flood of donations has allowed the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers to exceed its goal of sending Christmas boxes to 1,600 disadvantaged children throughout the state.

click image to enlarge

Christen Sawyer, the Christmas program director at Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville, prepares Christmas gift boxes for children in need in the central Maine region on Nov. 21.

Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Kasie Flowers, left, and Tina Carter, right, of the Waterville Housing Authority, pick a toy from the shelf to pack inside a gift box, to be distributed to disadvantaged children in the area for the holidays, at the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville on Nov. 29.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The news came as a relief to program administrators who, as recently as Nov. 29, said their ability to deliver the boxes was threatened by a combination of slower-than-usual donations and the loss of support from partner organizations hit by superstorm Sandy.

In late November, in newspapers, television and radio interviews and through social media sites, administrators said only about half of the boxes were able to be filled because of shortages of various items.

"We were all getting a little on edge because we just didn't have anything to pack any more," said Devon Pooler, who has been working with the program for six years.

But by Wednesday, enough donations had been made to not only meet the goal but to approve applications for an additional 55 children, for a total of 1,655.

"We had a great response from all the media coverage that we had, both monetarily and actual items being brought in," Pooler said.

Pooler said "quite a few" donors across the state sent in large money donations, allowing the program to buy the most needed items.

Pooler said donations that have come in since the goal was met will be applied to next year's Christmas season, as has become the tradition in the program's 60-year history.

"We have a hallway full of stuff waiting to go upstairs, and stuff is still coming through the door. So we're doing well," she said. "They really did step up and we appreciate it greatly."

On Wednesday, boxes containing toys, clothing and board games will be distributed to families from the Waterville armory. On Thursday, more boxes will be handed out from the Augusta armory.

Pooler said the families receiving the presents have already been identified and are asked to come only at their scheduled time. Last year, she said, worried parents showed up hours before distribution began and the police were called to maintain order.

Pooler said many area families have come to rely on the program. She said that, while some parents seem to have a sense of entitlement, many express gratitude for the help.

"We do get some people who will send us a Christmas card and be really grateful and that's what makes it all worth it," Pooler said.

The program gives not for the parents, but for the children, she said.

Thanks to the program, she said, children are "not waking up on Christmas and wondering why they've been forgotten."

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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