Sanford Police officers Chris Cyr and Sarah Howe were put delivering gifts Tuesday, part of an effort begun in late November to help out children, adults and seniors in the community who could use a little Christmas cheer. Credit: Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune

SANFORD, Maine — Those whose mission is to protect and serve have been spreading a little comfort and joy this holiday season, with help from the wider community.

So far, said Sanford Police Officer Sarah Howe, the annual drive to give some Sanford and Springvale residents a boost this holiday season has meant 70 individuals in 30 families will be a little merrier on Christmas morning.

Delivering boxes of brightly-wrapped gifts to families over the past couple of days has resulted in some unexpected gestures.

On Monday, officers were delivering gifts in one Sanford neighborhood that has traditionally seen a higher police presence than other areas, Howe explained. As they walked up to an apartment building, residents were out on the porch.

“They started to clap,” she said, as the officers delivered the gifts.

In years past, members of the police department have gotten together and provided funds to help four to six families with Christmas, usually concentrating on the children in the families, said Howe.

This year, that changed, when it was decided to broaden the scope to help out some adults and senior citizens, too, Howe, the organizer, put out the word on Facebook that police were taking nominations for those who could use some gifts — and the effort took off, in a big way.

There were contributions from lots of local families and local companies. People called to say they had brand new children clothing they’d be happy to contribute, or they went shopping for toys and mittens, comforters and snow pants, and a Christmas tree and presents for an 87 year- old lady.

Companies took on the task of supplying gifts for entire families, Howe noted. Officers bought gifts and pitched in to help wrap.

Some recipients didn’t know they would be receiving presents — like a single mother and her daughter who were nominated by someone living out-of-state.

“The entire trunk of the cruiser was filled, for her and her daughter,” Howe explained. “I am overwhelmed by the response from this community.”

And that’s not all.

Two days after she put out the word on social media, packages from friends across the eastern seaboard began to flow into the department — items like sets of new pots and pans or plastic storage containers — items most consider basic kitchen necessities. And there were fun things too, like dresses and toys.

One friend supplied gifts for a family of six, complete with stocking stuffers, she said.

“It’s a great idea. People need assistance,” said Officer Chris Cyr, who was out delivering boxes of gifts with Howe on Tuesday afternoon. Cyr said he’d had limited involvement, and credited Howe with the Christmas effort. She, in return, said she was grateful for him covering her calls when she was on gift duty.

She talked about the police concept of protect and serve, and noted the word “serve” can take many forms — like meeting some very basic needs.

“We’re always in people’s lives on their worst day,” like when there has been a car accident or a domestic dispute or some other reason for police to knock on a door, she said. “We want to be remembered for a better reason, a better day. We try to spread a little hope.”

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