For local police departments, Shop with a Cop is a chance for area law enforcement personnel to make kids happier during the holiday season. Each year, police departments fundraise to take underserved children on a shopping spree for gifts and necessities.
In Kearney, officers chat with Kearney School District, learning which families need help.
“We are hoping for 25 kids,” said officer David Parker, current department event co-organizer. “The school district gets us in touch with families who are struggling. I like to ask for kids who may be having a rough time.”
Last year, COVID-19 changed up the shopping efforts with officers and their spouses shopping for two days from the kids’ lists, wrapping and delivering packages. Parker said Target has also been generous with help creating a holiday meal basket.
“We are hoping to get back into the store,” Parker said. “We try to get the pressing needs such as winter clothing. Most years, we aim for $250 per kid. Not that all officers stick to that. If there’s a little over, we have a buffer.”
To help out, donations are being accepted at the department, 725 W. Highway 92, and at Kearney Trust, a local bank in the city. Parker said officers will also be at the Kearney Price Chopper off Watson Drive Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 27 and 28, to take donations.
“Some of the officers, especially the new guys, think it’s going to be chaotic, but it’s one of the best days of the year,” Parker said. “In the future, I hope to add fundraisers to the rest of the year. Stay tuned for that.”
Unlike other police departments trying to get back to in-person shopping, the Liberty Police Department will model this year effort after last with kids providing shopping lists and officers shopping for the kids.
Lori Sutton, support services supervisor for the Liberty Police Department as well as this event coordinator, said this year the department created a new fundraiser, offering a Liberty Police Department ornament for purchase.
“We have about 50 ornaments left,” Sutton said. “They are $15 per ornament or two for $25.”
Currently, the department is looking at shopping for about 10 kids and the first purchases will be for winter clothing needs. The shopping cap is around $200 per child. She receives referrals from the school district, churches and even a few during the Liberty Fall Festival.
“We were really debating whether to get back together with the kids,” she said. “I think it’s still about safety. No matter which, it’s about meeting the needs first and then the wants.”
To make donations, stop at the Liberty City Hall records window at 101 E. Kansas St. during regular business hours in downtown Liberty. Donations can also be left at dispatch on weekends.
“Donations are always welcomed,” Sutton said. “I’m always excited, and the officers as well the kids are too.”
Officer Claire Henry said Smithville officers will most likely take around 26 kids shopping in early December for her department’s Shop with a Cop effort.
“The Smithville School District, one of our partners, refers kids to us,” she said. “During the year, we host events to gather donations, and thankfully donations were up last year so that is in the bank.”
However, the officers are always game to see some more funds. Right now, Henry seeks auction items for the Shop with a Cop fundraising page.
“We have had local churches put together baskets that have gone over well,” she said. “There have been movie and coffee-themed ones. There’s a woman who makes fleece blankets for us.”
The auction will run Sunday to Monday, Nov. 28 to Dec. 6, on Smithville Police’s “Shop With a Cop” Facebook page.
“Find out about the auction, check out previous shopping days and if you want to help out, send us a message,” Henry said.
For the past few years, the officers have be able to spend $250 per child.
“Mostly we help them buy for themselves,” she said. “However, we have let them pick out small gifts for Mom, Dad or a sibling. This really is one of the best days of the year.”
Along with the auction, donations can be made through Amazon Smile. Visit amazon.com for details. Donations can also be dropped off at the station, 107 W. Main St.