Amanda Hamner and her son, Tucker, age 8, hold some of the heart-shaped rocks that were sold for donations, which they gave to their uncle, Gary Dolloff, seated, for his Pay it Forward at Christmas campaign in Rumford. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — For the past six years Gary Dolloff, the manager of the Greater Rumford Community Center, has paid for items such as heating oil, wood pellets, electrical bills and groceries for families who need a helping hand in the River Valley area.

With his Pay it Forward for Christmas campaign, he and other community members are giving so that others can be comfortable and move forward in their lives.

“What I like to do is to give to the families that are trying, but they’re just having a hard time right now, (either) with being sick or losing their job or whatever. We try to help them whether it’s filling up their oil tank or whether it’s buying some presents or paying something off for them that would help them stay in a house,” Dolloff said.

As one example, this year he and his donors paid off a woman’s taxes and helped her to pay for car repairs to get back and forth to work, he said.

“In the meantime, in the last couple of weeks, she has gotten interviews for a job and the vehicle is fixed. It was almost like that little bit of help and hope got her going again,” Dolloff said.

Dolloff says his inspiration for giving comes from when he was a child living with his grandparents with his seven siblings. “We didn’t have a ton of money; we’d probably get one gift, maybe a couple at Christmas. I remember specifically a couple of years when I was in my teens or pre-teens, that a Santa Claus came with a bag full of toys for all of us.

“I remember it clearly and I’ll always remember him being there, and I wanted to pay it forward for my grandparents for taking us in and helping us,” Dolloff said.

Another reason that Dolloff says he likes giving to those who need a helping hand is that he thinks it’s important for the student-athletes he coaches to see people giving to others.

“I’m around a lot of kids and I just want them to get that feeling that it’s OK to basically help people. And to see someone they know, their coach or their mentor or whatever; maybe someday in the future, they’ll see that and do the same thing,” he said.

This is the second year that Tucker Hamner, Dolloff’s great-nephew, age 8, has been involved with giving towards his uncle’s Pay it Forward campaign. Last year he collected money by doing chores and asking people for donations, but this year he had another idea about how to raise money, said his mother, Amanda Hamner.

Amanda Hamner and her family often play a game of collecting heart-shaped rocks whenever they go on hikes or to the beach, she said, and Tucker thought that asking for donations for the rocks would be a good way to raise money to donate to Dolloff’s Pay it Forward campaign.

With donations from the heart-shaped rocks and other contributions, Tucker raised $221 in donations. “I’m giving this money to help people who are starving, have no power or maybe cold. I can give the money to people so they can have as much as me and mom and Uncle Gary and Daddy,” he said.

His mother has participated in the campaign for several years now, and she has helped to take a family “who legitimately had nothing” Christmas shopping and out to eat, distributed turkeys, and picked out tires from a salvage store to give to families that needed those things.

But Amanda Hamner has also been on the receiving end, she says.

“We needed firewood and somebody gave Uncle Gary some wood, and (they) delivered us the wood. It’s hard to accept help, hard to be down on your luck — you’re trying, but you can’t (make ends meet). So, this is us coming full circle. That little bit of help got us through that weekend,” Hamner said.

“When you get on your feet and you get going, just try to (give) yourself and pay it forward and that’s what it’s all about. If everybody paid it forward then there’d be a much better world,” Dolloff said.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to Pay it Forward for Christmas, call Dolloff at 369-9906 or stop by the Greater Rumford Community Center.

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