- Associated Press - Monday, December 24, 2018

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - Friday, multiple police officers stormed into various homes throughout Nashua.

However, instead of making arrests or conducting searches, these officers brought bounties of gifts to spread holiday cheer via the annual Tactical Christmas operation.

As part of the Nashua and Manchester Police Athletic League‘s (PAL) Tactical Christmas, Santa, along with helpers from the Nashua Police Department, made early stops to 35 families facing a need this year. At each stop, they provided a full Christmas meal, plenty of presents to open come Christmas morning, and an endless supply of holiday cheer.

Before making their journey throughout town, officers met at the Nashua Whole Foods on Amherst Street to load up their heavy-armor trucks with over 1,200 presents for 25 families. They also carried with large boxes of food containing everything needed for a cross-cultural Christmas, dinner courtesy of Whole Foods. Though the store itself donates many of the bigger items such as the turkeys and hams, they also have giving tree at which customers can donate gift cards to help pay for side items.

“This is our third time working with PAL. Every year, we try to get better and add more families. One of our core values is giving back to the community, so I don’t think it gets any better than what we’re able to do during Tactical Christmas,” Whole Foods Manager Todd McInnis said.

With trucks fully loaded, coordinators, police officers and members of the swat team took to their route, winding down the narrow streets of Nashua to make their delivers. Once there, Emergency Management Coordinator Ed Lecius, reprising his role as Santa, came out to greet the families with hearty “Ho Ho Ho.” A Santa veteran, Lecius has assumed the role every year since the start of Tactical Christmas.

“Every year at the (Winter) Holiday Stroll for the past 20 years, Lecius said. “It makes people happy and I love it.”

Though many of the children were away at school, unaware of the Christmas surprise to come, parents and guardians stood at their doors, smile aglow on their faces, ready to receive the gifts and Christmas feast they would otherwise be without.

Many of the officers involved in Tactical Christmas do so voluntarily, showing up on their day off to spread holiday joy to families that are in short supply this time of year. This includes former Nashua police officer Phil Belmont who still has deep connections to the initiative as the primary creator of Tactical Christmas.

“When we first started, I was the PAL officer at the time and I was able to identity that there was a need in the community. Many weren’t given the opportunity to have a Christmas like some of the other kids. After talking with Sergeant Dillon, we worked together to provide for that need. The issue initially was, do we give toys or food. Then, after partnering with Whole Foods, we decided to do both. From there, we started incorporating more of the team and they were fully on board. It a special group we have here. We’re a family and this is what law enforcement is about - helping people and giving back.”

Also taking the lead in helping Tactical Christmas run smoothly were Police Chief Andrew Lavoie, Deputy Chief Michael Carignan, Captain Eric Nordengren, Officer Michael DeBisz and Lieutenant Keith Dillon.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with the community and donors to raise funds for this great initiative every year. As a young kid, I had the opportunity to be a recipient of a police officer’s kindness and interest in me. It really changed the course of my life. Doing this really gives us the opportunity to show kids in the community that we understand the plights that they’re going through and that we’re here to help.”

This year marks Nashua PAL‘s fifth annual Tactical Christmas, an event which began in 2013. In that time, it has grown from 5 families in its first year to 35 families this year. Hoping to expand its efforts even further, the Nashua PAL assisted Manchester PAL in partnering with the Bedford Whole Foods and encouraging other businesses to help support families in the area.

Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time, not a time of worry,” said Nashua PAL Youth Haven Coordinator Jaela Solis. “Being able to help these deserving families is one of the best parts of the year.”

Belmont expressed, “The magic of Christmas comes from people being kind to each other and taking care of people whether it means caring for the sick or feeding the hungry. As long as we have people giving and sharing with one another, there will always be a Santa Claus.”


Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.nashuatelegraph.com

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