FAIRFIELD — Sometimes the sound of police knocking on one’s door is cause for concern.
But tonight, for many families throughout town, it will be a cause for celebration and thanks.
That’s because, for the sixth year in a row, Fairfield police officers will be wearing their uniforms, Santa Claus hats and wide smiles as they distribute presents to children in need throughout the community.
Officer Shanna Blodgett said that since the economic downturn, she has seen an increased need in the community as residents of Fairfield struggle to pay their bills.
Blodgett said she’s been touched by the reaction of families, including one mother who, she said, had an “overwhelming emotional response.”
“You could tell that she had a little bit of relief that she was able to give something to her children that year,” Blodgett said.
The program, Cops Care for Kids, has survived for six years, thanks in part to the generosity of Detective Sgt. Kingston Paul, a 17-year veteran of the force.
When Paul started the program, officers distributed stuffed animals to about 40 children.
This year, 226 children identified through the local school district each will receive a stuffed animal and two presents, such as coloring books, dolls or small toys.
Paul said that both the families and the officers themselves benefit from the experience.
“There’s wet eyes during the night, believe me,” Paul said.
The program also has the practical benefit of helping to improve overall relationships between officers and the community, Paul said.
The large majority of the funding for the program comes out of the pockets of the officers themselves.
“We’re here to help people,” Paul said. “That’s what we do. There’s more ways of helping people other than on the job.”
Paul himself declined to discuss the details of funding for the program, but police Chief John Emery said Paul is being modest.
“I and others learned that over the years, Detective Paul was funding the program out of his own pocket,” Emery said.
When Emery learned about Paul’s quiet sacrifice last year, he said he challenged department employees to have $2 deducted from their payroll every week to help fund the program. Emery himself volunteered to donate $10 per week.
As a result the department has raised more than $1,400 for the program this year, Emery said.
Members of the community also donated toys and clothes to the program.
The department is not allowed to solicit donations, but Paul said that it does accept new stuffed animals or presents. The stuffed animals are sometimes given to children at crime scenes.
This year, for the first time, the department also plans to deliver presents that have been collected at the Town Office as part of the town’s Christmas program.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287