NEWBURYPORT — The Exchange Club of Greater Newburyport is collecting new stuffed animals throughout the month of March to be presented to area police departments for use with children at accident scenes and in domestic disputes.

The stuffed animals, often bears, along with coloring supplies, are used as “ice breakers,” according to officer Mike Traister of Groveland, when police officers come in contact with children under stressful situations.

“We have more than our share of domestic violence,” said Chief Thomas Fowler of Salisbury at last year’s presentation. “The bears help us build rapport when a child is upset. I officially thank you. I appreciate all that you do.”

“The bears put a smile on a child’s face,” added Newburyport police officer Mike Sugrue. “That makes it easier for us. Your help makes our job easier.”

“We do a lot of domestic violence investigations at the station,” said Marshal Thomas Howard of Newburyport at the same meeting. “We have a special interview room. We use the coloring supplies while their parents inside are being questioned. They engage the children while they’re waiting. Your contributions find vast usage. Thank you.”

“We use them most often with motor vehicle incidents,” said Sgt. Dan Cena of West Newbury. “I pulled a car over last week where both parents had outstanding warrants. A boy in the back seat had to watch both of his parents get taken away. I saw his eyes light up when I gave him a bear. The family was living in a motel in Salisbury. He had nothing, and I gave him something. The bears help smooth things over for us.”

For health reasons, stuffed animals must be new. The contact person for the club is Claudette Beerman of Salisbury at 978-228-9416 or exchangeclubnewburyport@gmail.com

“These donations let the children know we care and give them hope in a world that at times seems so very cold,” said Beerman.

Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (SAFE) and coloring supplies will be presented to police department representatives at the April 21 Exchange Club meeting at the Starboard Galley during “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”

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