A True Christmas Spirit

Beverly Smith, coordinator of the Old Orchard Beach Salvation Army is moved each holiday season by the kindness of strangers and the resilience of those in need. She said, “every family who applies has some special need; so we are so happy to be able to bring some cheer to them at this time of year with the help of the many sponsors and donors in the Saco Bay area. Our Salvation Army unit in OOB helps families in the Saco Bay area of Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, OOB and Saco. We did have a single parent family apply with a young child who has overwhelming medical needs – yet – this child, under ten years of age, is so positive and sees a special calling in her future to be a doctor.  We will be able to grant some of their Christmas wishes through the Christmas Assistance Program.”

“With the help of business, service clubs, schools, and even individual families who want to share with others, we have been able to provide toys, clothing and a Christmas Day Dinner for all of our applicants this year,” said Smith.

The Salvation Army sees  mixtures of families; some who need assistance for a few years and others who might come due to lost job, or unforeseen circumstance which puts them in a  need of assistance this year. The Salvation Army helps over 130 families in need. Thornton Academy supports 12 families of these families plus 30 of its own students who need assistance.

Beverly Smith and her husband  Bryan Smith are both Salvation Army Officers. They are the Corps Commanding Officers for The Salvation Army in OOB.  They coordinate all of the programs and services offered by our unit or what we call our “Corps Community Center.”  All Salvation Army Officers are ordained ministers. The Salvation Army is a denomination of the Protestant Church.  Both of our parents also were Salvation Army Officers. Beverly Smith said, “at a certain point in our lives for me at age 12 and for Bryan when he was 24 years old we felt that the Lord was calling us to this special ministry and we obeyed that call. We have been Officers for over 30 years.”

At Thornton Academy student council members led by Mrs. Lasante, has been busy preparing for a huge donation to local families. Each grade has two class officers. During the holidays they give out tags that the Salvation Army has provided. Once students have picked the tags they go out and by the present for the family in need of help. After they buy the present, they bring it to their teachers room to be kept until it’s time to be wrapped.

According to senior class advisor of 2018  Brittany Brown,  in the earlier years of class advising, she would worry about tags not being taken, but they always end up finding a home and are brought back with a  gift.  

“I had put an Instagram Story up asking any of my friends if they wanted to help out. I got help from all kinds of people I know including a girl I went to school with who now lives in California. Her step father received support from the Salvation Army and she felt very passionate about supporting this cause. She shipped out laundry supplies for both families we adopted this year,” said Brown.

“Gifts arrive in waves. Usually right after we hand out tags and the days leading up to it. It is overwhelming to see the amount of community support.”

This is 2021 class advisor Kristin Smythe’s first year and she is  loving every minute of the job especially being able to help with the Christmas family project. She was so impressed by how quickly everyone stepped up.  “After handing out tags on the first day, we only had 6 tags left. Mrs. Martin offered to take them and people helped her purchase the remaining gifts. The TA community never lets me down.”

“Today, a student brought an extra present because he thought the children would enjoy it. He went above and beyond! That is what it’s all about!” said Smythe. 

Vice President, Kaitlyn Genest Class of  2018 student council member says, “The true meaning of Christmas is giving and sharing with people that are less fortunate then you are. buying presents for these kids makes me feel like I am really supporting people in our community and people that need more  help then I do.”

“It makes me feel great helping out with doing the wrapping gives joy to the kids who are receiving the gifts. This makes me more appreciative for the Holidays because most of these families cannot afford some of these gifts,” said Genest.

Daniella Crane
Daniella Crane

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