GORHAM, Maine — Christmas is just nine days away, but some community members in Gorham made sure a particular group of people could start celebrations early this week.
On Wednesday, members of the Gorham Police Department joined forces with home health care service Home Instead for the 10th annual "Be a Santa to a Senior" program.
This program aims to give back to the community and spread holiday cheer by giving gifts to seniors in need. In the fall, tags are put on Christmas trees on local businesses with seniors' names and wish lists for the holidays. These lists often include practical items like blankets, clothing, puzzles, and toiletries. Community members buy items based on those tags, and they're packed and delivered before the holidays.
"I've been doing this for 10 years now, and it's just an amazing program," Buffy Houp, a board member of Home Instead's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program and the president of Gorham Volunteers in Police Service, said.
Houp said for her, the best part about the program is delivering.
"The seniors might not have any company over the holidays, and it just means the world to them, which makes me happy," she said.
Home Instead home care consultant Kathy Damon said Gorham's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program is serving 756 seniors in Cumberland County this year, which is an increase of about 30% compared to years past.
"I feel like I've spent the last couple of weeks with names and numbers and gift requests in my head, so just see it all come together and to see the faces on the seniors as we deliver the gifts — it's just really fabulous," Damon said.
The effort also means a lot to the Gorham Police Department, which has been helping out since the program's inception.
"It's a great opportunity for us to partner with a local establishment here within the community and to get out into the community and practice good community policing skills — and for folks to see us in a different way," Christopher Sanborn, Gorham's chief who has been with the department for 32 years, said.
He said to him, this is what policing "is really all about."
"Oftentimes, [seniors] are the forgotten folks during this time of year, unfortunately," Sanborn said. "It's nice to give them a bright moment during the holiday season."
That joy was obvious Wednesday morning, as a slew of officers knocked on doors and handed out Christmas presents, wrapped in holiday bags with bright red and green tissue paper.
"It's really nice to know that there's somebody out there that knows that I'm here," said one Gorham resident, Donna Michaud, who noted the police department has stopped by before to help her with needs like shoveling.
"I love them all," Michaud said.
The Gorham Police Department and Home Instead will be delivering gifts to seniors through this week and into early next week.