Shop with a Cop program

DOUG LOYER Special to the Times Eric Lightfritz Jr. looks at Legos with A.J. Linscott of the Marietta Police Department during a Shop with a Cop program Saturday in Marietta.

Because of a kind helping hand from law officers in the community, several area children will have smiles on their faces this Christmas after the Marietta Police (Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #12) held its annual Shop with a Cop on Saturday at the Marietta Walmart.

With some help from other area law enforcement agencies, the FOP Lodge #12 was able to shop for about 20 local children from underprivileged families. Washington County Community Action assists the program by providing the FOP with a list of kids that would benefit from the assistance.

“This is the third year for our Shop with a Cop program,” said Detective and DARE Officer Dianna Hively of the MPD. “This is funded through donations from the community from businesses and individuals. Other agencies are helping with this (Saturday) as well such as the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, the Marietta Fire Department and the Marietta College Police Department.”

The children get excited about the experience and the officers enjoy it. It gives them an opportunity to serve the community in a fun and different way. In addition to helping the kids to have a Merry Christmas by shopping with them, the Shop with a Cop program helps to change kids’ perceptions of police officers by having a positive experience with them. The program hopes to break down barriers between the community and the police by developing a better and more trusting relationship.

“We are basically here to help out to make sure there’s enough officers to go shopping with the kids and lend a helping hand,” said Captain Brian Rhodes of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. “We also have a Shop with a Cop program that will be next weekend at the Marietta K-Mart. The FOPs try to assist families in need and try to help out the community.”

“Anything that we can do for the community is fantastic and I’m a sucker for kids. I love kids,” said James Weaver III, Marietta College Chief of Police. “Anytime we can help kids out, especially at Christmas time, is a good thing. We really want these kids to look up to police officers and we want them to know we are their friends. We are there to help them. We want them to be comfortable with us so they are accustomed to us in case they ever need us. It helps build that relationship. It’s a good day for the community.”

Walmart employee Sara Rutter said before she started working at Walmart, her kids shopped with a cop for school clothes last year.

“The Shop with a Cop is a good program. It helps out a lot of families.”

Hope Lightfritz, of Marietta, was happy her kids could benefit from Saturday’s Shop with a Cop program for the first time. With five children, the program is a godsend.

“I think this is something that is really nice that they do for children,” said Lightfritz. “For somebody like me … this is all they’re going to get. My kids are really excited. Some of them were up at 3 a.m.”

Hope’s son, Eric Lightfritz Jr., said he would like to get some Legos and one of her daughters said she would like to get some Jo Jo bows for her hair. They were eager to team up with officers to see what other treasures they could find.

“It’s nice that they do this program especially since Hope just had a baby last week,” said Hope’s father-in-law, John Lightfritz. “This helps out.”

Amanda Antill’s two kids also looked forward to the Shop with a Cop event.

“I found out about this about a week ago,” said Antill. “I appreciate this because it helps out a lot.”