Fairfield police officers Nolan Allen, front, and Joe Kibbie carry gifts from the basement of the town office Thursday while loading their police cars to deliver the presents as part of the Police Department’s Cops Care for Kids program. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

FAIRFIELD — Most people could use some extra holiday cheer as the country moves into a third year of the pandemic, and police officers in Fairfield are working to do their part.

Donning Santa hats and practicing wrapping skills like elves, and with some help from a few neighboring police departments, Fairfield officers get busy each year preparing for Christmas and their Cops Care for Kids program.

Officers last year delivered gifts to 217 children. This season they’re providing presents to about 250 children from more than 100 homes.

A big difference this year, though, is that officers’ interactions with children will be limited.

Public Information Officer Casey Dugas said the limited time with the children is difficult, because a lot of the kids like to hug the officers and take photos with them. Dugas said they try to be accommodating while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

All school-age children in Fairfield are eligible to participate in the program. The school district sends a sign-up sheet home with students. Once the sheets have been filled out, they can be returned to the school or sent directly to the police department.

Stepbrothers Jace Elliott, right, and Jedidia Elliott open gifts they received Thursday from Fairfield police officers. Officers deliver presents to children in the area each year as part of the Fairfield Police Department’s Cops Care for Kids program. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Officers have been busy wrapping items. On Thursday they delivered three wrapped gifts and a stuffed animal to each child. Officers Nolan Allen and Joe Kibbie wore Santa hats as they made a series of stops in the frigid weather.

“Whenever you see the kids run to the door, you’ll know why we do this every year,” police Chief Tom Gould said. “We’re not just there for emergencies, we’re always there when they need us.”

The program was launched in 2006 by the late Detective Capt. Kingston Paul. The goal was to build stronger relationships between officers and the community, especially the children in town. Paul would donate $10 a week and would challenge colleagues to donate $5 each week.

Cherri Elliott greets Fairfield police officers Nolan Allen and Joe Kibbie as the officers deliver gifts to her grandchildren Thursday as part of the Police Department’s Cops Care for Kids program. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

When Paul retired in 2015 after 20 years on the force, he donated $20,000 to ensure that the program continues. Cops Care for Kids also receives money from area families and businesses, Dugas said.

He said Fairfield is small enough to allow officers to get to know children and build relationships.

“We all find it a positive program,” Dugas said. “A lot of these kids we see from calls, so it’s nice to see them when nobody’s hurt or in trouble.”

Morning Sentinel photographer Rich Abrahamson contributed to this report.

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