Shop With a First Responder arrives in Fort Kent


Santa himself could not have spread more Christmas cheer than the merry students of Fort Kent Elementary School who hopped down the aisles of local stores to pick out gifts for loved ones on Thursday morning.

FORT KENT, Maine – Santa himself could not have spread more Christmas cheer than the merry students of Fort Kent Elementary School who hopped down the aisles of local stores to pick out gifts for loved ones on Thursday morning.

The children were accompanied on the shopping trip by police and firefighters at the first Fort Kent Shop With a First Responder event.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, and even beloved pets were on the shopping lists of caring young people.

A fifth-grader named Lance said he felt “happier than happy” to be able to choose gifts for his father, mother-in-law, baby brother and baby sister.

“I can buy gifts for people I really care about and love,” he said.

The Madawaska Police Department launched Shop With a Cop in 2016 to help young children who may not be able to afford it buy gifts for their family members.

Fort Kent Police Chief Michael DeLena (right) and another volunteer wrap gifts with a student at Fort Kent Elementary School who bought gifts for his family at a ‘Shop With a First Responder ”in town on Thursday, December 16. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley Times)

This year, Fort Kent Police Chief Michael DeLena felt the same holiday spirit and joined in the gift giving celebration, also inviting the Fort Kent Fire Department to participate.

The departments are very united and have several members in common, such as the police sergeant. Cole Pelletier, who is a fire department captain, and Constable Michael Paradis, who is also a volunteer firefighter.

School social worker Marian Bouchard helped plan the Shop With a First Responder event.

“We identified 10 students who would benefit, whether it’s because they had a difficult year or for different reasons,” Bouchard said.

A student at Fort Kent Elementary School enjoys playing with a small doll that Santa Claus brought him to the Fort Kent town office on Thursday, December 16, during a “Buy with a First Responder” event. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley Times)

Before the shopping trip began, Bouchard met with the students to discuss the loved ones that everyone would like to buy and what those loved ones might like to find under the Christmas tree.

Anonymous donors provided $ 75 in spending money for each of the children.

Fort Kent Fire Chief Ed Endee accompanied a young man shopping at Family Dollar and Bogan Books.

“It is very gratifying for both ministries to be able to help the less fortunate and to make sure that they also have a special Christmas,” said Chief Endee. “This is the first year that we are doing this and we look forward to doing it again next year and in the years to come.”

Fort Kent Fire Chief Ed Endee (left) and a young man in a stylish winter hat check inventory at Bogan Books during a Buy with a First Responder event on Thursday, December 16. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley of Times)

After a fun morning shopping, SAD 27 bus driver Tom Pinette, known to district students for decades as ‘Mr. Tom’, transported the students to the Fort Kent town office where the children wrapped gifts and chatted over a lunch of pizzas and juice sachets.

Santa then made a surprise visit, delivering candy canes and gifts to the young buyers themselves.

District psychologist Manuel Martinez said Shop With a First Responder was a positive experience for the students.

“I think I can be with the [first responders] and creating those positive relationships with them and with the community benefits them and they are so happy to buy gifts for their family members, ”Martinez said. “I think it really helps these kids.”

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