By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
With 33 police officers, the same number of children, many pizzas and lots of laughter, the 21st annual Shop With a Cop event added up to one thing: fun.
Goshen city police officer Jeff Schrock said the event started because of a national program, beginning in Elkhart County with local officers wanting to make a difference in the lives of local children around Christmas time.
“It’s something we wanted to do with the community,” Schrock said.
Schrock has been chairman for the event for 15 years, and he said that every year he has seen bright faces of both local children in need and officers happy to help them shop for gifts. Children from everywhere in Elkhart County except for Elkhart, Middlebury and Bristol benefit from the Goshen Shop With a Cop program. The Elkhart, Middlebury and Bristol communities each have their own program, Schrock said.
The event begins at the Goshen Veterans of Foreign Wars post with photographs of the children with their officer shopping buddies, according to Schrock. The children get a photo taken in front of the Christmas tree, as well as a handmade frame to take it home in as a memento.
“We try to get everyone in uniform and a marked car,” Schrock said.
The marked police car is important — how else will the children get to set off sirens and police lights? Schrock said the children are allowed to use the lights and sirens as they caravan from the VFW to the store, which was the southside Wal-Mart this year. Each child receives a set amount to spend on gifts for their family, as well as clothes and other necessities.
“We have our own checkout lane, and the kids go through there,” Schrock said. “After we’re done, we go back to the VFW for a pizza party.”
All in all, the Shop With a Cop event costs between $7,000 and $8,000 to put on, Schrock said. Every dollar comes from donations from community members, he said.
“It’s a fantastic thing to have the community rally around,” Schrock said. “People are generous. We have some older couples that send us around a $200 check, deciding to donate rather than buy each other Christmas presents. Every penny goes to the kids — from the pizza to the shopping, whatever it is, it goes to the children.”
The event also helps put police officers in a good light for local children, Schrock said.
“Our officers have a great time doing it,” Schrock said, “and it shows the child that the officer isn’t always the bad guy. Some of these kids come from families where they see the cops from the other side.”
The event also helps the officers put their own lives in perspective, Schrock said.
“We see that some of these kids are not going to get a Christmas without Shop With a Cop,” Schrock said.
Want to donate?
Those who would like to donate to the program can write a check to the Goshen FOP — Shop With a Cop, c/o Goshen Police, 111 E. Jefferson St., Goshen. All funds donated are used, and any funds left in the account at the end of the year are rolled over into the next year, according to Schrock.