By Seth Daniel
Random acts of kindness are welcome most any day of the year, but Everett Police (EPD) have once again rolled out such generosity for the Christmas season – bringing back its popular 25 days of Christmas program to brighten up the season for random children and families.
Officer Jeff Gilmore said the EPD is in the midst of rolling out its 25 days of Christmas program for the second consecutive year, saying it’s a program championed by Chief Steve Mazzie to build goodwill amongst children in elementary and middle school throughout the community.
The program kicked off on Dec. 1 and will continue through Christmas Day and is actually an extension of the larger EPD Toy Drive that is in concert with the Mayor’s Office and Toys for Tots.
Officers patrolling the neighborhoods will often spot kids playing and, with permission of their parents, bestow them with an early Christmas gift. Other kids are identified by the schools or other police officers as perhaps deserving a pick-me-up. All together, it has helped brighten the season for police and members of the community.
“The feedback is great,” said Gilmore. “This is one of the Chief’s initiatives. It’s one idea he had and it’s been fantastic. What kid doesn’t’ like to have a present tossed their way unexpectedly? Even if there’s a language barrier, you can get through it and it builds so much goodwill. You might have kids who only see us arrest people or have negative perceptions of the police due to what they might have seen in their home countries. We do make arrests and you have to have that side out there. However, it’s a very small part of what we do. We like to do this kind of work…It’s important for young people to see our officers keeping their streets safe and building relationships at the same time. We’re really looking to break down barriers where we can.”
As of today, Dec. 14, the EPD has bestowed 14 special gifts on those in need and, at times, random kids playing in the neighborhood.
“We really want to support this in any way we can,” said Gilmore. “At roll call, we tell them if they have the opportunity to do something like this, to seize that opportunity. If they know of a young person who could use it, we’ll load the cruiser up with some gifts. If they see someone while on patrol, they can radio the station and we’ll bring a gift out to them to give away. It’s something we encourage our officers to look for every day during the month.”
Gilmore said as much as the kids have enjoyed the program, as many smiles as have brightened up the faces of middle schoolers who got an unexpected gift – it is all the more invigorating for the police.
“It really is a two-way street,” he said. “The officers get to see young kids in a positive light. The young people see the police as human beings and community members and not just people in a paramilitary uniform…I’ll be honest with you; I’ve been on the police for 23 years and this is the kind of stuff after 23 years that is very, very gratifying. You see a lot of the negatives of society when you’ve been on the police force a long time. To be able to do this kind of random or targeted kindness is just so positive.”
Gilmore said that with last year’s success during the first year, and the followed up success this year, the program will continue for as long as it can be sustained with donations.
“There are no plans of dismantling this program,” he said with a smile. “I would say it’s going to be going for a long, long time in Everett.”