An Old Orchard Beach High School student and a teacher work together to fill buckets for the Sand4Safety program. Buckets of sand were delivered to 21 OOB senior citizens, to help them keep their doorsteps and walkways safer this winter season.Courtesy Photo

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Sometimes, what can seem like a small gesture can make a big difference.

For some senior citizens, getting outside after snowy, icy days — even just to the end of a walkway — can be a hazard.

A program that began last winter is changing that, with the delivery, by high school students, of buckets of sand that seniors can use to grit their doorsteps, walkways and paths after a storm.

Sand4Safety, of the Senior to Senior program of OOB Community Friendly Connection, was first instituted in January 2019, and eight senior citizens  signed up.

This season, said Cathy Chiasson of the Senior to Senior program, 21 seniors are participating.

Students in the alternative program at Old Orchard Beach High School shoveled the sand into buckets at the town’s public works storage facility and then, with a teacher along and a volunteer to drive the van, they were off to make deliveries over a couple of days earlier this month.

“The kids loved doing it,” said Chiasson. On the first delivery day, some of the students asked if they could return for the second day of deliveries.

The senior citizens were equally enthused.

“One lady gave each of the students a granola bar,” said Chiasson. “The kids were thrilled, and the people were happy to see them.”

All of the recipients were called the day before, so they expected the students’ arrival.

Chiasson said seniors should call Assistant Town Manager V. Louise Reid at Town Hall when their sand bucket starts to get low. She said they shouldn’t wait until the bucket is empty, because it takes a bit of time to organize the event with the school, and then shovel and deliver the sand.

Shoveling sand is hard work, as anyone can tell you, but Old Orchard Beach High School students took it in stride as they filled buckets they later delivered to 21 OOB senior citizens, through the Sand4Safety program. Courtesy Photo

Among the students taking part were Isaac Countway, Brendan Damon and Joe Atwater; others preferred to remain anonymous. Teachers assisting were Mark Oliver, Marc Boissonnault,  Mark Knowles  and Wiley Muller.

The Old Orchard Beach Sand4Safety program is not the only such program in the area. In Saco, the Age Friendly initiative hosts a similar program, which is made possible with collaboration from Saco Public Works Department, and Thornton Academy volunteers from Interact, the National Honor Society, Student Council, and the Action Club. Age Friendly Saco provided more than 100 buckets by the end of the 2018-19 winter season, said Saco Communications Director Emily Roy.

Chiasson said when students arrived at one OOB home, the neighbors were outside, and noticed the sand buckets being handed over.

“I just love this town,” the neighbor, who moved to Old Orchard Beach just a year ago, told Chiasson.

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