Heading into October, Mainers become aware of the changing of the seasons. And while the seasons go ‘round and ‘round, the generosity of Harpswell residents toward those in need is a constant, even in uncertain times.

That’s why for nearly 25 years, the Harpswell Santa Fund has been able to make the holidays brighter for many local children and has offered a hand to those who need help throughout the year. Even during a pandemic.

“When COVID-19 happened, money started coming in like crazy,” said Evan Weston, president of the Santa Fund. “We are fortunate to live in a very generous community.”

And despite all the changes to daily life, this year is no different.

“We are asking people to step up once again with their time and their treasure to help us help our neighbors in need,” Weston added.

The Harpswell Santa Fund was started by Roy and Deb Knight after a fellow lobsterman lost his life and the couple stepped up to bring toys to his children at Christmas. The effort expanded over the years. Weston, a Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue volunteer, and Gail Hart, a former rescue chief with the department, came on board to help. Eight years ago, the Santa Fund received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status with the legal assistance of attorney John Loyd.

Since then, the Santa Fund’s outreach to the Harpswell community, and the help it offers, has continued to grow.

“There are a lot of people in need in Harpswell,” said Hart. “They’re just very quiet about it.”

Jodi Wallace is the Santa Fund’s treasurer. “A lot of what we do supports the community well beyond the holiday season,” she explained. “This has really become a year-round effort.”

She said the Santa Fund has provided headphones and backpacks for local schoolchildren and has distributed grocery gift cards and paid for heating oil for residents of Harpswell.

Weston said that dedicated volunteers like Mary Coombs and Shelly Wilson play a vital role in allowing the Harpswell Santa Fund to fulfill its mission of “neighbors helping neighbors.”

“We could use many more just like them,” he added. The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, through its Toys for Tots program, has been a longtime supporter of the Santa Fund.

The Harpswell Anchor, under former Editor and Publisher Bob Anderson, also played a role in collecting donations. The new, nonprofit Harpswell Anchor, along with local businesses like The School House 1913 restaurant and Johnny G’s Sister gift shop, are also lending a helping hand.

“We at the new Harpswell Anchor are excited to be working with the Santa Fund to encourage the Harpswell community to participate in this important project,” said Janice Thompson, the Anchor’s director of development and operations. “Both of our organizations share a similar purpose: To build a sense of connection and support in our town.”

The Anchor has a link to the Harpswell Santa Fund website (harpswellsanta.org) and its email address (harspwellsantafund2019@gmail.com) in the Nonprofit Corner of its website (harpswellanchor.org).

Those wishing to support the Harpswell Santa Fund with a tax-deductible donation can go to harpswellsanta.org and donate via PayPal or mail a check to: Harpswell Santa Fund, P.O. Box 242, Harpswell, ME 04079.

“If you are willing to volunteer with this worthy cause, or if you or someone you know has had a tough time this year, please send a note describing what is needed to the email address or to the P.O. box,” Hart said. (All requests and referrals for help are kept strictly confidential. If requesting for children, please include gender, age, clothes needed with sizes and a few toy ideas.)

“We were successful last year, despite all the challenges,” Weston said. “We’re looking for people to help make the Harpswell Santa Fund even better — this year and in the future.”