Local law enforcement are making preparations to host a holiday tradition next month that spreads joy and excitement to area children and their families, along with officers themselves, through the Shop With Kids program.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the Fraternal Order of Police Hi Point Lodge 60 has not been able to host its traditional in-person fundraisers prior to the approaching Dec. 19 shopping day, which pairs elementary age students with police officers, deputies and troopers to shop for Christmas gifts at Wal-Mart of Bellefontaine.
In an effort to continue the longtime tradition, the organization is currently requesting donations from individuals and area businesses to support the cause and offer the youngsters with the chance to take part in this much-anticipated activity again this year.
Bellefontaine Police Department Officer Allen Huffman, who also serves as a school resource officer at Bellefontaine City Schools, said donations for Shop With Kids can be dropped off at the police department, 135 N. Detroit St., or given to FOP members Officer Huffman, Officer Seth Chambers or Officer Mike Morgan.
Checks can be written out to “FOP Hi Point Lodge 60” and include “Shop With Kids” in the memo line.
Throughout the many years of the program, the FOP is appreciative of the overwhelming support from the community that has made it possible, including on the actual shopping day itself.
“We often have individuals who come up to us when we’re shopping with the kids and they want to give a donation of $10 to $20 to help out. It is amazing,” Officer Huffman said.
Logan County law enforcement has offered a strong showing at Shop With Kids over the years from each of the area departments, including the Bellefontiane Police Department, Logan County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol, DeGraff Police Department, Russells Point Police Department, Washington Township Police Department and West Liberty Police Department.
The participating children are selected by each of the area school districts and have the chance to ride a bus to Wal-Mart the morning of the event. They each are provided with a set amount of money to shop with.
“It is a fun atmosphere and we love seeing the reactions on the kids’ faces when they get to the store,” the school resource officer said.
“They not only pick out items for themselves, but they have a whole host of people they want to shop for — from their siblings to their parents and grandparents.
“It just adds to the spirit of Christmas by getting to help them pick out the perfect gifts for their families and to interact with the kids during this time.”
After picking out their gifts, the local youths are typically treated to cookies and punch and also receive assistance with wrapping the presents while at the store.
“Wal-Mart makes sure that we have everything we need to make it a memorable day for the kids,” Officer Huffman said.
Considering the economic and health difficulties encountered by area residents this year related to the pandemic, the chance to host the program carries with it extra meaning as a way to support and uplift local families.
“We are excited for the opportunity to still bring Christmas to these children and their families,” the police officer said.