BIDDEFORD/SACO – The Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement will kick off a new initiative this weekend – the Good Deed Crew – to inspire people to do small, positive acts that may not take much time, but can make a meaningful impact.
A “crew” of 10 to 15 people plan to arrive at the Hillview Heights neighborhood on Sunday, Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. to distribute blue candlelight bulbs to residents. Michelle Goulet, treasurer for the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement and chairman of the Good Deed Crew, said in the aftermath of a home intrusion at25 Hillview Ave. that left two people hospitalized with gunshot wounds, the blue lights can be placed in residents’ windows to show support for local law enforcement.
Goulet said when she was young, her family displayed blue lights in windows during the holidays – a tradition that symbolized when a law enforcement officer from the household had died in the line of duty. Goulet’s greatgrandfather, Biddefordpatrolman Honore Dutremble, was shot to death on April 8, 1932, while approaching a car that had been stolen from Portland. Goulet said she got the idea for the Good Deed Crew as a way to encourage people to make differences in small ways, even if they can’t volunteer on larger projects. “Volunteering today has become obsolete,” Goulet said. “The reason for that being that people have to work two jobs to survive and they’re trying to cultivate what little time they have left for their families.” However, Goulet said, people do many small things every day that they may not think of as volunteering, such as paying for someone else’s coffee, holding a door open for an older person or donating blood. Goulet said the Good Deed Crew may soon start gathering as a group to perform random acts of kindness for short periods of time, adorned with their specially designed T-shirts.
“We could pop up anywhere,” Goulet said. “At a shop helping people bring groceries to their cars for a half hour. If you just dedicate a small amount of time, it can still make a difference.” With tensions building between communities and police across the nation, and with 121 police officers dying in the line of duty last year, Goulet said displaying a blue light is an example of a small act that would strengthen the community without demanding much time. “We hope it catches like wildfire,” Goulet said. “The community is so segregated, it’s not as close as it was in the 1930s when officers used to patrol the street – now officers are separated (from the community) by bulletproof vests, Tasers, cages in the back seats, their cars – sometimes police don’t feel the community supports them.” Goulet said when Dutremble died, his 12 children, including Goulet’s grandmother, Pauline Dutremble, all had to leave school and go to work. When Biddeford built a new police station in 1980, the building was named the Dutremble-Mondville-Goulet Police Facility after the three Biddeford policemen who died in the line of duty.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page at www.odmp.org, patrolman Joseph Goulet (no relation to Michelle Goulet) was struck by a vehicle and died on June 15, 1920, and patrolman Jean Mondville died of a heart attack while working on Oct. 29, 1966.
Rep. Justin Chenette (D – Saco), president of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, said the Hillview Heights shooting and bomb threat at Thornton Academy have awakened the community. “It made you stop and think, life is really short,” Chenette said. “A lot of people are doing pay-it-forward types of things, and those little things may seem unimportant, but they make a difference … What if we were able to channel all those things into a vehicle, maybe not just doing singular good deeds, but getting a group of people to do something inspiring, maybe spontaneously, to help people.” Chenette said a Facebook group was formed for people to share their good deeds with each other, or to share their ideas for future good deeds. “The idea is that you get other people that are excited, just as you are, to volunteer,” Chenette said.
“Volunteerism or community service sometimes has a negative connotation. It’s what prisoners do on the side of road, or ‘I don’t have time for that.’ But opening a door for someone at the bank, it doesn’t take time. Increasing volunteerism in any way possible – (the Good Deed Crew) is a creative and fun way to do something like that. It’s not a big event, but a small event that you can do.” Chenette said people are encouraged to post good deeds and ideas to the Facebook group, using the hashtag #GoodDeed. “It’s to help spark and spread kindness like confetti,” said Goulet. “Just do small things, that’s all – keeping it small and simple. Sometimes less is more, creating more but on a smaller scale.”
By Ben Meiklejohn