Early Saturday morning, 20 members of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 187, took children on a shopping trip to Wal-Mart in New Boston.
“The money we used came from various fundraisers and donations,” said Deputy Adam Giles. “Last year, we got a large donation, which was half the reason we were able to do it this year. It came from Santera Corp., in Indianapolis, Ind. Helen Means, who used to work here, now owns that company, and she gave us a $10,000 donation last year.”
Giles said the children selected for the shopping spree came from various school organizations and from phone call referrals.
“Around 20 officers showed up, and we took care of 63 kids so far. We had three that couldn't show up because of the weather, and Jodi (Conkel) is going to take them some time this week,” he said.
Conkel said she would be taking those three children shopping today (Wednesday).
“I'll be taking three girls tomorrow (today),” Conkel said.
She also said she offers advice to the children she shops with, and shows them how to get a “bigger bang for their buck.”
“Women like to shop. We're good at that,” Conkel said. “Some little girls might want the big Barbie Doll, and it's like a hundred dollars. Or they could get probably 14 or 15 little Bratz Dolls or Barbies, and they thought that was more fun, to get more.”
Conkel said there not only is a benefit to children, but adults involved receive something from the experience, as well.
“It really hits home. It makes you realize how fortunate you are,” she said. “Sometimes we get really busy in life, and we don't even realize how fortunate we are. And when we see how grateful they are to receive one little doll, they make you really appreciate your life. And it makes you take a good look at it.”
Deputy Shawn Sparks recently was reminded about his experience with a child at last year's Shop With a Cop.
“I had a kid from last year that showed up this year and gave me a Christmas card,” Sparks said. “The mother took a photo of me and the child, and he wanted to give me a Christmas gift. He wanted me this year, and I took him around. This is probably one of the things about my job I enjoy most this time of year. I enjoy Shop With a Cop.”
He said it also gives the child another perspective about law enforcement officers.
“Ninety percent of the time, we're dealing with a lot of the negatives, and this is something real positive. They look at you like you're helping them, also. They look at police officers in a different way,” Sparks said.
Deputy John Koch agreed.
“Instead of fear, they just see smiles on that particular day, and I think it has an effect on them, especially the kids that are going out with the cops,” Koch said. “They're spending between 20 and 30 minutes at a time, sometimes longer, with these officers, running around the store. And the officers let their guards down, having a good time. The officers are acting more in the way of a parent with that kid.”
Detective Paul Blaine said it makes him appreciate his life.
“When you see little kids that don't have anything, and they're always asking for things they can't afford or have. As we do our job for the year, and we go out and we actually see families that don't have anything, it makes us actually appreciate what we have.”
Capt. David Hall said the program was the idea of FOP Lodge 187, and this year, deputies received help from the Adult Parole Authority.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.