AUBURN — Envoy Holly Johnson wanted to add more names to the Angel tree in the Auburn Mall, each a boy or girl with wishes like Legos and Barbies, and couldn’t.

It was too full of lingering wishes.

With 12 days before Christmas, the Lewiston chapter of the Salvation Army is 1,000 gifts short.

“We still have about 350 children that have not been bought for,” said Johnson who, with her husband Daniel, is new to the post. “I’m a little nervous, thinking how in the world are we going to make it? But I’m hoping.”

Local charities say they’re seeing mixed giving as Dec. 25 draws near.

Erin Reed, development director at Trinity Jubilee Center, said in-house numbers have been kept low, about 40 children, and their gifts have been bought.


“People are very generous this time of year,” she said.

The center is still accepting donations for the big Christmas Eve dinner and welcomes gloves, mittens and hats.

“We had a bunch of people ask today, but I think we’re out,” Reed said.

Sgt. Tym Bunnell oversees seven counties in Central Maine for the Marine’s Toys for Tots and expects this season to come down to the wire.

“We’ve seen a decrease in the number of toy donations, almost significant, to the point we’ve spent over $40,000 purchasing toys (already),” he said.

Last year, he had 10,136 gift requests and “we were hooking and jabbing right to the end,” Bunnell said.


This year, it’s 12,295, with the gifts channeled back to families through local nonprofits, if there are enough gifts.

The program gives to children from newborns to 18-year-olds. Monday is the last day for donations. He and his crew will spend next week visiting 140 toy collection sites.

“We’ve filled very close to half of the requests so far,” he said. “Usually by this time, they’re calling us saying, ‘Hey, our box is full, can you come get it?’ We’ve had very few locations call.”

About $30,000 in money and toys from Bath Iron Works and $18,000 from the Maine Real Estate Managers Association has gone a long way to filling in some of the gift gaps, he said.

“Right now, we are in a desperate need for girls 8 to 11,” he said. “The 3-to-5 age group for both boys and girls are the ones we see typically massive amounts of toys come in.”

Chip Morrison, president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber’s annual “Stuff the bus” campaign is off to a good start.


People have been dropping clothes, toys and gifts off at the chamber office, and next Wednesday a bus will pick up donations from members hosting collection drives. More will be added at the business after hours event on Thursday night at Lost Valley.

Donations go to Androscoggin Head Start and Childcare, Advocates for Children, Tri-County Mental Health Services and Safe Voices.

“I’ve never been disappointed,” Morrison said. “It’s such a mass you can’t believe it. The unbelievable generosity of people is so heartwarming.”

Johnson at the Salvation Army said in addition to toy donations being down, the iconic bell ringers and kettles had just reached the halfway mark toward their goal of $88,000 this week.

“It’s been a challenge trying to get people to stand,” she said. On top of that, “with Thanksgiving being so late, we couldn’t stand at certain places until Thanksgiving.”

The kettles are the group’s largest fundraiser, helping with a food pantry, basic needs and toys at Christmas, if needed.


Between an Adopt-a-Family program and the tagged Angel tree at the Auburn Mall, they plan to help 459 families in need this Christmas.

One issue with the Angel tree: Each tag has three requests, but people have been returning tags with just one or two filled.

The Salvation Army likes to give each of the children three gifts, Johnson said. It’s looking for Legos, Ninjagos — “everyone has requested Ninjagos” — Sofia the First, baby and Barbie dolls, cars, trucks and new coats.

There are drop-off points at the Auburn Mall, the Auburn Shaw’s and the Lewiston Hannaford, and the Canteen will be at the Auburn Walmart all day Saturday.

Donations will be accepted until Dec. 22. Bell ringers will be out until Dec. 24.

“We still have another two weeks,” Johnson said. “Being that it’s our first year, I’m nervous but I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the community come together for a lot of things.”

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