BURRILLVILLE – It began at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, with the entire department mobilized on a mission of good cheer, bringing to an end to a month-long effort to provide Christmas for the town’s families in need.
Members of the Burrillville Police Department delivered gifts from their largest yet Adopt-a-Family Christmas Program on Friday, handing out not only toys, but the makings of a complete holiday for 17 Burrillville families.
The annual project includes delivery of personalized items sized for each child, with all receiving winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots. Each child also receives a Christmas stocking, and organizers make sure that the adults get at least one wrapped gift, with items 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.
The department first began operating the program, with help from the Burrillville School Department and town-based organization Between the Cracks, in 2014. Christmas drives in years previous had benefitted families across Rhode Island, and it was Col. Stephen Lynch who first aimed to keep bounty from the holiday charity right in town.
This year’s effort included the donation of around $1,400 raised at a community rally in October. The rally aimed to show support for the department amid nationwide calls for defunding police, and benefitted a project that supporters say shows how Burrillville’s law enforcement is a part of the community.
The 2020 drive also included the donation of toys and treats for pets, the result of an effort by one Steere Farm Elementary 2nd-grader to ensure the families’ animals were not forgotten. Peyton Lacey solicited donations so she could purchase the items, including dog treats, cats toys and more.
The community-wide effort will benefit an anonymous group of families who reached out for help during the Christmas season.
“We protect the identity of our families, but this year’s program was a great success thanks to all the men and women of the Police Department and numerous members of the community who joined in with us to make this year’s Christmas very special for 33 Burrillville children and their families,” said Lynch.
The massive project brings joyful chaos to the station every year, as toys and bikes fill up conference rooms and hallways in the Victory Highway building. The drive grows every year, but seems to have leapt forward in 2020, with the department taking on nearly twice as many families as last year.
BPD’s 2019 Christmas drive helped out nine local families, including 22 children.
Court Clerk and Administrative Assistant to the Chief Lisa Rabideau coordinates the entire effort, from selecting local recipients to speaking with each family to see how the department can meet their individual needs.
“She was here on weekends and into the evenings making this program so successful,” Lynch said of the dedicated clerk.
Rabideau also puts out the call for donations and help on social media. Last week, Lynch noted, was dedicated to wrapping the gifts with a revolving army of volunteers showing up to do their part.
And today, Lynch’s team of officers and civilians will get to see reactions, as teary-eyed parents take home piles of gifts, over-filling the trunks of cars.
“It will be a busy day,” Lynch said.