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GILFORD, NH — Recognizing that children are missing the social interaction they normally get at school, the Gilford Police Department has launched an art contest and a pen pal program in which officers will exchange letters with youths in the community.
School Resource Officer Alyssa Raxter said that, after the schools shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic, she started looking for ways to continue interacting with Gilford students. She said she searched her online network with other SROs across the country and came across the pen pal and art contest ideas as ways to give the children something to do and continue to bridge the gap between the police department and the students.
She launched the art contest a week ago Monday, and it’s open to any child under 14. They are asked to submit drawings, coloring, painting, pictures of sidewalk chalk art, or any other works they wish to send in, directly to Raxter or through the department’s social media. The contest will be running through April 27.
“We’ll post it on Facebook and hope it will give them pride that their work is being shown on our online art gallery,” Raxter said.
She said the idea has received a great response, and other agencies have reached out to say they’re going to start something similar.
“An agency from California contacted me about the art contest,” she said. “It’s not just a Gilford kind of thing, and I think that’s great. We all got ripped out of our positions much earlier than we thought we would, and this keeps us in contact with the kids.”
She said the department already has received paintings and drawings. “I’m really excited to see what the kids are doing, since I can’t pop into the art class like I normally would be,” she said.
The police department launched the pen pal program last Thursday, and Raxter said it will run through May 4, encouraging students to develop positive relationships with Gilford officers while practicing their writing skills.
“We’re asking our other officers to volunteer to help out as the letters come in,” Raxter said. “The kids know me from school, but we’re expanding it to have other officers involved as well.”
To participate, students may send letters to: Gilford Police Department, attn. GPD Pen Pal Program, 47 Cherry Valley Road, Gilford NH 03249.
An officer will respond by postcard or letter to get the exchange underway.
In order not to exclude anyone because of a lack of resources, Raxter will provide assistance with stamps and envelopes; call her at 603-527-4737 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raxter said, “I hope people know that, just because we’re not in school, I’m still here and trying to do all I can for the kids.”
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