During the past 13 years, readers of the Bangor Daily News have contributed more than $575,000 to the Santa’s Helper Fund. That money goes to and is distributed by The Salvation Army, and is used to provide meals for the hungry, coats to protect against the Maine winters, and toys for children who otherwise would go without.
With the current tough financial times we are facing, Capt. Joshua Lyle of The Salvation Army in Bangor is expecting the need to be even greater this year.
“We may have to dig a bit deeper, but we won’t retreat,” Lyle said earlier this week, “We will dig in our heels and become even more creative to help ensure that the people of central and northern Maine get the help they need. The Bangor Daily’s Santa’s Helper Fund is crucial to that mission.”
The Santa’s Helper Fund was started in 1973 by Joanne Van Namee, the mother of BDN publisher Richard J. Warren. She has since passed away but the fund remains near to Warren’s heart.
The fund has grown each year, and this year the goal is to raise $50,000. To help reach that goal, the BDN is improving Santa’s Helper, making it easier than ever to give.
As always, donors’ names will be listed in the paper along with the town they are from and the amount given. Many donors also donate their gift in honor or memory of a loved one, and that information also is listed. Of course, anonymous donations also are honored.
Keeping track of where the donations come from is crucial, according to Lyle.
“We want our donors to be assured that if money comes in from Houlton, that money is going to be used in Houlton,” he said. “The money does not just stay here in Bangor, it is distributed throughout central, eastern and northern Maine.”
The BDN graphics department has designed a measuring icon that will help readers watch the fund grow each day, said Elizabeth Hansen of the BDN. Santa’s candy cane will act as a measuring stick, growing redder as the goal is approached, like a thermometer.
The fund officially kicks off Saturday, Nov. 15.
Also new this year will be the ability for readers to give their gift online at bangornews.com/santa.html.
She hopes Mainers who go south for the winter months and read the paper on the Web site will use the online donation method as they remember the tough times that so many people in their home state will face this winter.
Donors can still mail in their donations or drop them off in a special box at the Bangor Daily News office building at the corner of Main and Buck streets.
Lyle said overall donations at The Salvation Army are off about 30 percent this year.
“We raise nearly half of our annual budget through November and December, and the Santa’s Helper Fund is crucial to that. Those funds allow us to continue our programs such as our soup kitchen, which serves 100 hot meals a day, and our ability to reach out to families throughout the state with coats, food and even fuel assistance,” he said.
Lyle stressed that The Salvation Army continues its goal of offering not just “a handout” but a “hand up” to the people it serves.
“We’re very focused on not just giving people things, but also advice and resources on where they can go to get the help they need to improve their situation,” he said.