Toy Fund Co-Founder’s Public Service Still Inspires

Matthew Barron was a true public servant, in a way that went well beyond his career serving the City of Portland.

Barron is remembered each year by many who donate to the Press Herald Toy Fund, including a family member whose gift is listed below. And, in a sense, he’s the inspiration behind all donations to the fund over the past 72 years.

Matthieu barron

Barron studied Jesuits and graduated from Cheverus High School in Portland and Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He went to work in the city’s social service in 1934 and two years later became deputy director. This is the job he held during the winter of 1949, when a recession left many families he worked with without the money to buy gifts for their children.

Social assistance programs don’t buy holiday gifts for children today, and they didn’t then. It wasn’t his job to solve this problem, but Barron came up with the idea of ​​raising money from the luckiest members of the community to bring joy to the kids who weren’t so lucky.

He and his friend, Evening Express editor-in-chief Robert Bruce Beith, decided to ask newspaper readers for donations to buy toys. Beith appealed in a newspaper column written under the pseudonym Bruce Roberts.

Family members recalled how Barron personally bought and packaged the toys for years. He had helpers from the start, but he also sometimes worked until midnight as the holidays approached delivering toys to needy families.

This idea would become what is now the Press Herald Toy Fund. But that’s not the only lasting legacy of Barron’s public service.

Barron was promoted to director of welfare in 1950 and was also appointed chief of the Portland City Hospital, which at the time was a dark complex known locally as “the poor farm”.

His wife, Evelyn, was a registered nurse and matron of nurses at the hospital. Together, Matthew and Evelyn Barron envisioned what the hospital could become and led its transformation into a modern nursing facility for the elderly and disabled. The Brighton Avenue facility was eventually renamed “Matthew I. and Evelyn A. Barron Center”.

Barron retired in 1974. He then served on city council, most notably as mayor from 1976 to 1978.

And until his death in 1980, Barron remained the chairman of the toy fund and personally led the annual effort to brighten up the holidays.

Beith, the fund’s co-founder, would years later credit Barron with understanding not only the charity’s need, but the community’s desire to help as well.

“Matt Barron has always said that locals will never fail in fundraising,” Beith said.

Donations from readers of the Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram, The Sun Journal in Lewiston and The Times Record in Brunswick enable the toy fund to deliver gifts to thousands of children in need in York counties, Cumberland , Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox. To help you, go to


In memory of the Graham family; Ellen, Donald and Alden, by Patty Graham $ 50
In memory of my parents, Ralph Jr & Janet L King, their son $ 100
Happy Holidays and Health! Stella & Family! $ 100
Given in honor of the grandchildren, by Peter Haynes $ 500
In memory of my great-uncle, Matthew Barron, Co-Founder of Toy Drive, by David Donovan $ 50
Gordon Slocum $ 100
Pam and John Fridlington $ 250
In Honor of Victoria Hugo-Vidal, Joan & Dick Searles $ 100
Happy Holidays from Charlie $ 100
Anonymous $ 50
Anne and Greg $ 100
In memory of our dear friend, Brenda Joy Fraser. His spirit will always dance in the hearts of those who loved him. Group of MHS Women. $ 160
In memory of Margaret Gardiner, an amazing aunt who loved to share the fun of the holidays! $ 200
A blessed Christmas, by John & Corinne Bernat. $ 50
Anonymous $ 100
In honor of Monique $ 50
Anonymous $ 100
In memory of Chris Foley. From Joe, Donna, Pat and Jackie $ 100
In Honor of Sawyer J Stone $ 50
In Memory of Matthew S Stone $ 50
Christmas Tracy $ 100
Anonymous $ 50
Barbara Stanley $ 100
Anonymous $ 1,000
Anonymous $ 100
Anonymous $ 50
Best holiday wishes! Tom and Judy Sides $ 300
Don & Christine $ 250
The Glasberg $ 100
Aidan and Reid Sylvester $ 100
On behalf of Joel Lindy. ADT and CAT $ 100
Anonymous $ 50
Merry Christmas to everyone! $ 500
Anonymous $ 30
Ruth & Hank Foundation $ 200
This is the product of our CE Class Fundraiser for the Real Estate Learning Group. $ 2134.53
Eloise Knowles $ 30
In memory of Derek and Eric, mom and dad $ 50
Cape Elizabeth’s Kline Family $ 200
Marguerite Cekuta $ 30
Patricia Washburn $ 100
Anonymous $ 100


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