FAIRFIELD — Friday night, Fairfield police officers will don Santa caps and load their cruisers with an estimated 1,000 presents for area children.

They will then knock on the doors of 110 families to deliver, not criminal charges, but Christmas cheer.

The department’s Cops Care for Kids program has become a growing tradition since Capt. Kingston Paul started it seven years ago by delivering stuffed animals to 40 children.

This year, more than 260 children in 110 households identified through the local school district will receive visits, the tail end of a lot of preparation, according to police Chief Thomas Gould, who is experiencing his first Christmas with the department this year.

Gould said he was humbled by the dedication the officers have shown to the program.

“It’s sometimes hard to get people to work a shift, especially during the holiday season,” he said. “But if you call them up and ask them to come in and wrap 1,000 presents without being paid, they come in in droves.”

Last year, the program came to the attention of the department’s command staff when administrators learned that then-Detective Sgt. Paul was funding almost the entire venture out of his pocket.

John Emery, the chief at the time, asked other officers to pitch in with a weekly contribution, and raised $1,400 for the program last year.

Gould said this year, officers also funded most of the venture out of their pockets, but they were boosted by an anonymous cash donation of $500.

Gould said the department was met with about 90 applications from families in need over the past week, which he said is an indication that demand for the program is growing.

So far, he said, they haven’t had to turn anyone away.

Last year, officers gave a stuffed animal and two small presents to 226 children. This year, they were able to give each child a stuffed animal and three small presents, such as a coloring book, doll or small toy.

The department is not allowed to solicit donations, but the department does accept new animals or presents.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 mhhetling@centralmaine.com Twitter: @hh_matt