It’s an annual event throughout northeast Indiana, and if you ask most police officers, they’d probably say it’s the one they enjoy the most.
Shop with a Cop pairs law enforcement officers with children in an effort to make Christmas special for young people in need and their families.
Throughout the Four Counties region, the program takes place during the month of December at various malls, often followed by a meal to wrap up the memorable evening.
The Fraternal Order of Police pavilion and a church in Ligonier made Christmas brighter for 20 students – two from each of Noble County’s 10 elementary schools.
Each child was able to spend $250 on their shopping spree. A sheet was sent home to the parents of the selected child. Parents were asked to list siblings living at home, along with two sections of gifts – wants and needs.
One family had eight children – all under the age of 18 – living at their address, and all of them needed hats and gloves on their shopping lists.
The FOP stepped in to buy the hats and gloves for this family, saving the $250 shopping spree to buy other items. Stone’s Hill Church in Ligonier pledged $500 for all the children in that particular house to have winter coats.
After the shopping spree, the police took the children to eat pizza before going home. When the children arrived home, officers presented each family with a $100 gift certificate to Kroger.
Officers from the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Office and the Shipshewana, Topeka and Wolcottville Police Departments team up to take the kids shopping.
This year, 23 children spent a brighter Christmas and enjoyed a special shopping trip with their new police friends. Each child received $150 to spend on gifts for themselves and family members.
“You can see how really good these kids are because they always tell us who they’re buying presents for, like their grandma or their mom,” said Lt. Carlos Jasso of the Shipshewana Police Department. “They’re not just there to buy things for themselves.”
Often, children need to be reminded to choose something they want, not just spend it all on others.
This year, officers from the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department, Angola, Ashley, and Fremont Police and Fire Departments, Steuben County Probation Department, Community Corrections, prison staff and communications officers took 166 children shopping.
Thanks to an auction of pies, the Angolan police department was able to raise $67,000. This meant that each child – ages 5 to 12 could spend $300 on gifts for themselves and other family members.
The children have been instructed to buy the things they need – new bedding, shoes, clothes and school supplies – during their shopping spree.
Angolan police chief Ken Whitmire recalls that when he joined the department in 2000 it took several months to raise around $10,000 “just to take kids shopping”.
The pie auction turned out to be a huge fundraising activity. “This event just multiplied,” he said.
The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, Auburn and Butler Police Departments held Shop with a Cop events during the month of December.
Butlers accompanied 22 children from 12 families on their shopping trip. Auburn agents shopped with 54 children from 22 families.
The Auburn Shifters Club, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and Auburn American Legion Post 97 have teamed up to make Christmas brighter for 29 fifth graders. Each child was able to spend $225 on basic necessities including winter clothes, books, hats and gloves. Each child could spend an additional $75 on whatever they wanted. Each child also received a backpack at checkout.
When they learned that toys destined for the Salvation Army Toy Drive in Fort Wayne had been stolen, Auburn Shifters members went shopping at the Auburn Walmart store, buying and donating more than $500 for replace stolen items. These toys were taken to Fort Wayne to be donated to the Salvation Army in time for Christmas.
This feature combines story and photo elements from KPC reporters Matt Getts, Jeff Jones, Oksana Kotkina and Patrick Redmond.