Sanford Salvation Army Corps Officers Lt. Railene Griffin and Capt. Erin C. Smullen sort produce at the Main Street headquarters on Thursday, in preparation for Friday’s weekly giveaway. It is business as usual at the Salvation Army, thanks to those in the community who have stepped up to replace funds stolen in a burglary just before Christmas. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — When the community learned that someone had broken into the Salvation Army headquarters on Main Street sometime between mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve and early on the day after Christmas, prying open a safe and stealing $1,700, people responded.

Once word got out, said Salvation Army Capt. Erin Smullen, the phone started ringing. People wanted to help — and they did help.

There have been donations from businesses, organizations and individuals. And while others might not have been in a position to lend financial support, they called to let the Salvation Army know they had support in others ways.

What was disheartening to Smullen and others at the church is that the money stolen came from people in the community in the form of nickels, dimes and quarters and bills, all tucked into red kettles in the hours before Christmas Day. It was 3:30 p.m. when Smullen and others closed the door on Dec. 24 for the Christmas holiday. When she returned on the morning of Dec. 26, Smullen found the place burglarized, the safe open and the money gone.

The first to step in when they heard of what had transpired were brothers Mark and Matt Rouillard, owners of Central Furniture, matching the amount that had been taken from the safe.

“The Salvation Army is a great organization and it does a tremendous amount of good in the Sanford area,” said Mark Rouillard on Thursday. He said his grandfather, Roland Couture, a Sanford native  was the conscience of the business. One in a family of 19, Couture went off to serve in the U.S. Marines and then came home to Sanford and opened Central Furniture with a business partner, and eventually became sole owner. During the course of his life, Couture helped many, his grandson said. “Whenever we offer help, we think of him,” said Rouillard, who said the donation was made on behalf of customers and the store’s “great staff,” with Couture in mind.

Also pitching in with a $1,700 donation was the Sanford Institution for Savings, known as SIS Bank.

“The Salvation Army has done so much good for this community,” said SIS Bank President Blaine Boudreau. “We want to make sure the Salvation Army can continue their mission during the holiday season and the New Year without skipping a beat.”

Also making donations, said Smullen, was Sanford Safe Storage and a host of others. Some have offered help in other ways, like assistance with security measures.

In 2018, the Sanford Salvation Army helped 540 people in 234 families with various forms of assistance, from contributions to utility bills to rent, according to figures supplied by Lt. Railene Griffin.

Additionally, 268 people, including 140 children, received Christmas assistance. And throughout the year, 4,892 people stopped by the headquarters on Fridays to pick up bread and produce from the food pantry.

The kettle drive, which met its goal of about $46,000 prior to the burglary, is the largest fundraiser the Sanford Salvation Army has and helps the church provide assistance to others throughout the year.

Smullen said the church works with the the city’s General Assistance Office at City Hall, along with other agencies, to provide help to those in need.

“We try to help as much as we can,” she said.

Police are processing evidence and continuing their investigation into the burlary, said Sanford Police Detective Chad Allen on Wednesday.

At the Salvation Army on Thursday, volunteers were sorting bread and produce, readying for Friday morning when the doors will open to those who can use the help. A line of children’s warm winter coats and jackets were hung on a railing on the wall, just in case someone needed one.

When there is need the Salvation Army is there.

In Sanford this season, the community was there for the Salvation Army.

“We want to thank the community for their generosity,” said Smullen. “It’s always been the community’s money and now the community again has stepped up to recoup those funds (that were taken). It’s beautiful.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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