GLENBURN, Maine — As Chief Eric Strout sees it, the mission of G&H Ambulance of Glenburn and Hudson goes beyond transporting sick and injured people to the hospital.
“Because we’re a private nonprofit organization, we give back to our communities,” Strout said. “That’s in our charter.”
To that end, the crew for the past two years has been providing food and Christmas gifts for at least two families, one each from Glenburn and Hudson, as well as the makings of a Christmas dinner for as many as 10 more families.
The holiday giving operation began two years ago as a community outreach program, according to Strout, who heads the 30-member crew, and member Melissa Smart, who has taken on the job of shopping for presents, turkeys and the fixings that go with a traditional holiday meal.
Besides making the holiday season a little more bearable for struggling families, the Christmas giving operation also helps raise awareness of the ambulance service.
“It’s really been a hit for us,” Strout said. Though the ambulance service was incorporated in the 1980s, some in the community remain unaware it exists, he said.
Strout said municipal officials and churches refer some of the families to the ambulance crew from Glenburn and Hudson. In some of those cases, the toys and meals are delivered anonymously.
In other cases, the families are known to be struggling because they’ve lost all they own in house fires, said Strout, who also serves as a lieutenant with Glenburn’s all-volunteer fire department.
“That’s the thing for the fire department and ambulance service. We see people at their worst times. You take it for granted how much you have.”
Strout said the recipients of the gifts and meals are grateful for the boost.
“People are kind of teary-eyed and shocked,” he said.
Smart agreed: “It’s things like that that make it worthwhile. It’s really not a hassle. Not everyone has what they need to take care of themselves.”
Smart said this week that she started shopping for the families the day after Thanksgiving, keeping an eye out for bargains.
“I’m a thrifty type of person,” she said. “The more I can save, the more I can buy.”
The Christmas project isn’t the ambulance service’s only community outreach project G&H has taken on. Its members also provide fire safety education for Glenburn Elementary School students, support Little League baseball and on Halloween, ride along local streets in an ambulance meeting children and handing out treats, to name a few.