It was the 10th annual Shop With a Cop event, which connects children from low-income families with members of the Fraternal Order of Police Gold Star Lodge 188 for a morning of Christmas shopping. It is part of a national Fraternal Order of Police program.
“Our goal is to have 25 kids each year,” said Washington County sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Gherke, who organized this year’s event. “This year we had 26 sign up. We try to team up each one with a uniformed officer.
“We have some corrections officers here today and some support personnel,” he said.
An average of between $200 and $250 is spent on each child. Kmart provides snacks and drinks afterwards, a visit by Santa Claus and discounts on certain children’s items.
“We try to make sure they get the essential items they need first,” Gherke said. “Clothes, hats, coats and shoes; then we let them pick out Christmas gifts. We try to steer them towards more educational items, and then we let them get something for their parents as a thank you.”
Sheriff’s officers volunteer for the event prior to December.
“This is the highlight of the year for the officers, too,” Gherke said. “For a lot of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will get.”
Samantha Patterson, 12, of Marietta got a purse, an MP3 player, some Chapstick, a few music CDs and a plate set for her cousins.
“I think it’s really nice that they can do something like this,” she said. “All the officers are so nice to everyone.”
Stephanie Francis, 16, of Marietta said there was nothing too unusual on her shopping list.
“I got some makeup, a purse and some clothes,” she said. “Basically what an average girl gets.”
Judy Perdue of the Veto area brought her 2-year-old grandson, Wyatt Roberts.
“We’ve been buying some John Deere stuff for him, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” she said. “We’re still trying to figure out what he’s interested in.”
Perdue came in place of Roberts’ mother, who was unable to make it Saturday.
“This is just a very wonderful program,” Perdue said. “Anyone who has ever had kids knows how expensive it is to get them raised.”
The funding for Shop With a Cop is raised through a police auction in November, as well as donations from individuals and businesses in Washington County.
Earlier this year, Washington County residents Oran and Joanne Baker established a $10,000 legacy fund for the benefit of the sheriff’s youth programs. Each year, 5 percent of the value of the fund will be used to support the Shop With a Cop program.
The Bakers also will make a matching gift of $100 for any other donation or contribution of at least $100 made to the fund by Oct. 28, 2008, up to $10,000.
To donate to the fund, contact Gherke, 309 Fourth St., Marietta, or the Belpre Area Community Development Foundation, P.O. Box 731, Belpre.
About the program
The program connects children from low-income families with police officers for a morning of Christmas shopping.
The local Fraternal Order of Police lodge began participating in the program in 1998.
Twenty-six children signed up this year.
An average of $200 to $250 is spent on each child.