Atwood Police Chief Rob Bross, left, and Piatt County Deputy Lindsey Bross, enjoyed their day shopping for kids in need. They are pictured with a couple of the kids who made wish lists.
By Doris Elmore
Police officers from the Monticello Police Department, Piatt County Sheriff’s Office, Atwood Police and volunteers were determined not to let the COVID pandemic spoil Christmas for some Piatt County kids. On Saturday, December 12, at least 10 law enforcement officers & volunteers from the county got together and held Shop with a Cop for 54 Piatt County kids, plus a few others out of the county.
There was only one big issue, due to the pandemic, the officers were unable to take the children with them for the shopping experience. They did the next best thing; they took the wish lists the kids had made and did the shopping for them.
According to information from Monticello Police Chief John Carter, the Monticello Shop with a Cop is a program started in 2014 by the Monticello Police Department. All of the funding comes from private donations and no money from the police operating budget is used for this program. Funds are raised through the sale of United States flags that are displayed in Monticello, and donations from the community and businesses. All officers put in extra effort to raise the money and enjoy Shop with a Cop as much as the children.
The program allows underprivileged children or those needing a positive interaction with the police to spend time together. The children are selected from the Monticello School District and the surrounding area and spend the morning with Law Enforcement Officers and volunteers. In a normal year an extra opportunity is added allowing the kids to visit with the officers at breakfast before going shopping.
On the day of the event the kids meet with the officers and the kids are shuttled (usually by limousine bus) to Walmart. Once at Walmart, the kids are paired up with an officer and are allowed to spend up to $100 on Christmas gifts. These gifts can be for themselves or others.
This creates a positive contact between the officer and the child. That is why their motto is “Connecting Cops and Kids.”
The first year it started (2014) they shopped with 19 kids; 2015: 18 kids; 2016: 28; 2017: 47; 2018: 45; 2019: 65 kids and this year 54.
As of April 2019, Shop with a Cop is now 501 C (3) tax exempt and all donations are tax deductible. Those donating should ask for a receipt.
While this year has been different in most areas, the children were not left out, the law enforcement of Piatt County, plus a few volunteers, made sure that didn’t happen. This has been a tough year for many people being out of jobs, but the Spirit of Christmas and helping others is still alive and well.