Holden resident Judy Sibley is a big believer in rescuing people and animals, especially at Christmastime.
A year ago, she called Holden police Chief Chris Greeley to tell him that her neighbor needed some help. A branch had fallen off a tree in his yard and knocked out the back window of his car. He was worried because it was going to be several weeks before he could afford to pay the deductible on his insurance and have it replaced.
Greeley didn’t hesitate to dip into the department’s 25 Days of Kindness fund and drop off the money for the deductible to Mark Martin, 66. The police chief did not reveal to Martin who’d told him about the broken car window, but Martin learned from others that it was Sibley.
“Now, every snowstorm, he shovels my driveway and cleans off my car,” Sibley, 59, said Friday.
Greeley decided this year that he’d repay Sibley’s kindness during this year’s 25 Days of Kindness program with some cash and gifts.
“This is a huge blessing,” said Sibley, who will use the cash to help pay off the credit card debt she accrued to buy studded snow tires. She needs to be able to drive this winter to care for her ill sister in Bangor.
This is the sixth year that Greeley and the officers in his department have spent much of December helping people in need with gift cards, food, paper products, presents and cash. This year, donations to the program “exploded,” he said.
“Last year, we raised around $7,000, but so far this year, donations have totaled about $26,000, and that’s just the cash,” he said.
The police department’s training room overflowed Friday with canned goods and pasta collected in just one Holden neighborhood as well as toys, stuffed animals, handmade neck warmers, quilts and other items.
“The more I give out, the more I get. Just when I give out $500, I get $1,000 more,” Greeley said.
Holden businesses have also been very generous this year in light of the rising cost of food, fuel and utilities, the police chief said.
People like Sibley let the department know when their neighbors are in need of some kindness.
Rick Sousa, 64, thought someone had died when his wife told him earlier this week that Greeley would be stopping by to drop off a gift for them.
“She was crying so much, I couldn’t tell what she was saying,” he said.
Sherry Sousa, 64, almost started to cry again Friday when Greeley gave them some staples, a grocery store gift card and cash.
“This is a tremendous help to us, and we’ll be using the money to buy food,” she said. “The price of everything’s gone up. I’m so grateful for this.”
Greeley is unaware of any other police department in the country doing a similar program that has garnered so much attention. In addition to Maine media, this year, News Nation, a subscription news channel based in Chicago, contacted him for a story about the 25 Days of Kindness initiative.
The town also bought and installed new “Welcome to Holden” signs on Route 1A this year that include an attached piece that reads: “Home of the 25 Days of Kindness.”
Sibley supports that sentiment. When Greeley stopped at her house, she was wearing a T-shirt that said, “In a world where you can be anything — Be Kind.”
That is the message Greeley wants to promote as the reason for the season, whether people celebrate Christmas or not.