What a sweet deal!

John Clark sharing once again how caring folks in rural Maine take care of those less fortunate. Two years ago, I profiled the annual Christmas Childrens Gift Giving day in Hartland. I’m back with another look at how this all happens. Sisters Shirley Humphrey and Barbara Day have been involved for a long time. When I asked Barbara how long, she stopped sorting gifts and thought a moment. “I started back when I was married, and I got divorced in 1978.” For the next 40 years, the sisters, along with an ever changing group of Hartland residents have worked year round to gather funds, gifts and essentials so kids and their families who are struggling, can have a nice Christmas.


Helping out is a multigenerational affair


He may be up there in age, but he’s still a kid at heart.

It’s a multi-generational effort. Shirley’s daughter and son-in-law were busy carrying items to the right table. Savilla Morgan was also helping out. Her daughter, Deana, my long time substitute when I was the Hartland Librarian, was at her new job, waitressing at PopOnOvers Bakery and Restaurant in Pittsfield, but she and her mother spend countless hours all year long, cutting out coupons, watching for sales and stretching funds further that you can imagine in order to make the event successful.


Some of the winter coats finding new homes in the morning.

Barbara told me that she’s seen a shift in requests in recent years. With more families struggling for longer periods of time in a tough rural economy, people are asking for bedding, toiletries and other essentials as well as the usual toys. Beth and I helped out, doing what was needed, from opening bins and placing plastic candy canes full of sweets along the edge of a big tub, to triaging jackets by size and condition and using empty cardboard boxes for the pet stuff as a makeshift table when we ran short. Politics, religion and anything else that might ordinarily be divisive are forgotten as a dozen plus volunteers work cheerfully and effectively to get everything set up for Saturday morning when more than 175 children and families will descend on the old school cafeteria to pick out clothing, essentials and presents to go under their trees.


Just a small part of the toy wall

What originally was intended to serve Hartland has expanded over the years to include St. Albans, Palmyra, Canaan and even a few folks from Ripley. By the time we’re finished, there are tables piled with pet supplies including leashes, pet coats, kibble, kitty treats and squeaky toys, another with infant wear and other items for babies, toddler clothing, an entire table of wraps and comforters, a line of boots and shoes along a wall, smoke alarms, toiletries, candy and snacks, hats and mittens, a long rack of very warm jackets, many brand new, socks for all ages, toys new and gently used, from baby items to a few new bikes.


The hat and glove table

Yes, it’s a lot of work spread all year long, but there’s a real nice payback after it’s over. Everyone takes a few weeks off and then, we start over again. Merry Christmas everyone.


The improvised table of pet stuff

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  1. Lea Wait says:

    Wow. And how lucky those in Hartland and surrounding communities are to have all of you!

  2. M. E. Kemp says:

    Wonderful work, all of you! If you post an address maybe people would send some things (new, hopefully!) I know I have two ladies tops that I got in the wrong size, and I could add a toy, too!

    Can I send a box of new clothes ?
    Can I send a box of craft items for kids ???
    THIS new stuff. What do you all need ???

  4. You and Beth are amazing, as is your community. Glad to have the address for donations for next year. Thanks for posting, John! Merry Christmas!

  5. Kate Flora says:

    So inspiring and the photos really show what these two sisters, and their helpers, are doing for their communities. Thanks for sharing, John.

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