The Lawrence County law enforcement officers participate in their annual Shop With a Cop program, giving presents to the children of local families in need. The program has continued to grow over the years, as well as the relationships between the officers and families of the community.
The Lawrence County law enforcement officers have taken the phrase “To Serve and Protect” to a whole new level. They are breaking down the barriers between the community and the police, creating a positive and trusting relationship. Not only are the law enforcement officials taking on their normal roles of protectors and enforcers of the law, but they have also added a unique job to the list: Santa Claus.
Lawrence County’s “Shop with a Cop” program was put together by several law enforcement agencies throughout the county seven years ago. The Ohio State Highway Patrol originally started helping a single family during Christmas 25 years ago. Local police departments, fire departments, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, and court systems wanted to be involved and partnered with the Highway Patrol – launching the Shop with a Cop program. The goal of the program is to provide Christmas presents to children in struggling families, as well as for children to bond with the officers and interact with them in a fun environment.
“It is so rewarding to see the joy in children’s eyes that normally might not get anything at all for Christmas,” says Lawrence County Sheriff, Jeff Lawless. “To see the relief in a parent’s eyes knowing that their child is going to receive a Christmas gift and that they’re not burdened with not being able to provide that gift is just such a great thing.”
Making It All Possible
Each year, a list is compiled by the law enforcement agencies. Schools or local businesses will turn in the name of a family that they feel needs help around the holidays. Once the list is completed, the families are told the date and time to be present at Walmart. Each eager child receives $225 to spend and is paired with an officer to go around and shop. Before any toy shopping can be done, the officers have the children pick out all the necessities first, including coats, shoes and clothing. This program does not just happen overnight. The participating law enforcement agencies have been planning and fundraising for this event all year long. All the money used to fund the program is from donations from sponsors-made up of local business, individuals and the law enforcement agencies. One of the biggest ways the department raises money is by selling apple butter for $8 a quart. The department goes through the entire process from preparing the apple butter and cutting the apples to cooking and jarring the butter.
A Success for Lawrence County’s “Santas”
Shop with a Cop’s most successful year was 2014, raising nearly $14,000 to help 49 local children. In previous years, the department was only able to help roughly 30-40 children. Due to an increased number of donations and extra work that law officials have done, they have been able to help out more children each and every year. “There is a need to help the less fortunate in our community and all over, and it’s our job to take care of these kids,” says Trish Scarberry of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The Lawrence County Sherriff’s Department says that donations have been coming in higher than last year, and they “are very hopeful to be able to help at least 50 and beyond this year.”