BURRILLVILLE – The Burrillville Police Department provided a Christmas for nine local families in 2019, bringing holiday gifts, stockings, gift cards and more to those in need, through a unique, localized version of the “Adopt-A-Family,” program.

Some 22 children received essential items, such as shoes and winter clothing, and parents opened their own personalized presents, along with certificates to local restaurants and other businesses, on Christmas morning.

The department went beyond the children’s lists, delivering 14 bicycles, along with many other toys, games, books, sleds and sports items.

In fact, BPD’s 2019 charitable drive was so successful, that around six boxes filled with additional items were delivered to the local veteran Toys for Tots drive, and a few were even stored for next year’s holiday season.

It was all part of an organized effort by local law enforcement to provide a “complete holiday,” for those in town who otherwise might not have one.

The department first began operating the program, with help from the Burrillville School Department and town-based organization Between the Cracks, in 2014.

The annual effort starts with nurses at Burrillville schools, who identify children who they feel might need help. School staff then sends a letter, along with a blank wish list, home to the parents in a sealed envelope.

Families who are interested in receiving help return the lists, which are then forwarded to Between the Cracks. The organization serves as a clearinghouse, consolidating lists and cross-checking for duplicates, as well as communicating with local churches to determine that families are only on one list.

The lists are then given out to local individuals, groups, and businesses that are looking to adopt a family for the holidays.

But while others in the community receive just a generic wish list from an anonymous family in need of help, the police department takes extra steps to provide those chosen with a total holiday, from a stuffed stocking to bag of goodies for the pet.

Court Clerk and Administrative Assistant to the Chief Lisa Rabideau begins the process of selecting the department’s lucky recipients by cross-referencing potential families to be adopted with the police database, to ensure there are no active investigations or recent arrests, and avoid any sense of impropriety.

Once families are accepted by the BPD, Rabideau calls the parents to discuss the program.

“Unlike the other agencies and individuals whose goal is to help a family out at Christmastime, the goal of our program has become ‘to completely take Christmas off of your plate,'” said Rabideau. “I make sure the families are ok with this, and then I (get) in and get all of the information that I can.”

Rabideau not only obtains the sizes and wishes of any children, but also others living in the household, including pets, and asks about the family’s likes and dislikes.

The entire department – both sworn and civilian personnel – are then assigned to teams that have “captains,” and members get together to purchase needed items. This year, the department’s lieutenants served as captains, and even spouses got involved with contributing gift ideas.

Rabideau posts news of the drive on social media each year, and says the outpouring of community donations begins literally moments later.

“We have groups, individuals, and businesses who step up year after year to purchase specific items for children, donate for the massive shopping we do at the end, purchase grocery gift cards, volunteer to wrap, etc.,” she said.  “We have one family that has kept us supplied in wrapping paper for the past four or five years.”

In 2019, the department adopted nine families with a total of 14 girls and 8 boys, who ranged in age from 18 months to 15 years.

Every single child received winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots. They received sneakers, at least two sets of pajamas, and at least three new outfits, complete with socks and underwear.  Rabideau said the wish list of every child was met, and then dozens of items were added to, “round out their gifts and be sure they each had some of everything.”

There were dollhouses and other large items, in the program’s sixth year, along with helmets accompanying all 14 bikes.

With the help of the Burrillville High School Student Council, each child received a Christmas stocking filled with additional trinkets, candy and gloves.

The parents were also not forgotten.

“We had single moms, a single dad, step families, and traditional two-parent families in our mix this year,” said Rabideau.

Each of the adults received at least one wrapped gift, including things like shaving kits, candles, gloves and scarves. The families also received an envelope filled with gift certificates, including up to $400 worth of grocery cards for each family in 2019; a $50-$100 gift card for a local restaurant, depending on the family size; and cards or certificates for some type of activity to do with the children during the two week school vacation.

“These included movie passes, Dave & Busters, Build a Bear, and Chuck E. Cheese,” said Rabideau. “Two families also received gift certificates for portrait packages from a local photographer.”

Pets received gift bags from the town’s Animal Control Department, as well as other treats and gifts from a local family.

“No stone was left unturned,” Rabideau said.

Col. Stephen Lynch noted that Rabideau coordinates the Burrillville Police Department Adopt-a-Family Christmas Program, and “gives tirelessly of herself to ensure the program’s success.”

“The program is a success thanks to the generosity of the men and women of the Burrillville Police Department, combined with the incredible outpouring of support from the community,” Lynch said.

The wrapping, Rabideau noted, is a project in and of itself, and takes a week of organized effort with help from an army of volunteers.

Items, coordinated by family and child, are first moved into the courtroom, and participants come in every day for a week, including a large wrapping party over the final weekend.

The parents are scheduled to come in every half hour to pick up the gifts, and police department personnel – many on their time off – provide a “reveal.” Parents walk in to see a room filled with tables of beautifully wrapped gifts, bicycles and large items all donning oversized bows, and stockings overflowing.

Lynch greets each person, and officers carry the goods out to load the cars.

“When we meet with the families to present the gifts to the parents, it is a very, very special moment for all involved,” the colonel said.

“Oftentimes, they are so full that a cruiser needs to pull up behind them to load and deliver the bicycles and other large items,” said Rabideau.  “It is quite a sight.”

Lynch noted that when he first came to Burrillville in 2013, the department was contributing to a Christmas drive where items were brought to the statehouse for dissemination across Rhode Island.

“I decided to revamp the program with the focus being on those families in need in Burrillville,” he said. “The program is a rousing success because of people in the community.”

The colonel noted that support comes in the form of generous financial donations, gifts and toys purchased and brought to the station, and labor by those who show up to wrap.

The BPD’s program is not associated with any other organization, and has grown “exponentially,” over the years, according to Rabideau.

“It is incredible,” she said.

“Our members ask for nothing, and the focus is to provide for a better Christmas for families that just need some help in making that happen,” said Lynch.

Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Join NRI NOW in recognizing local law enforcement for their work not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year.  

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