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Sheriff, Police Chief plan "Shop with a Cop"

By Daniel Herda  - dherda@h-ponline.com

Huntington County law enforcement agencies are partnering to make the holiday season better for local children.

Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel has been coordinating “Shop with a Cop” for the last 15 years—with the first shopping event seeing six kids signed up, and the program growing and has become more popular since.

Stoffel said the 2017 “Shop with a Cop” has seen “a record number of kids” signed up.

“We have 52 right now, but it looks like we are going to have 55 total,” Stoffel said.

Here’s how the initiative works. Stoffel contacts school counselors for Huntington County Schools to “see where the need is” for children who need a little extra shopping love for the Christmas season.

Scenarios can range from financial struggles, a family member having a serious illness, and overall to continue to build relationships between the police and the community.

“Maybe one of the families had a bad interaction with the police department and their dad is in jail or something like that,” Stoffel said. “Besides helping with the financial portion of Christmas we are also trying to bridge that gap with police-child interaction and try to rebuild something that was torn apart for some reason.”

The shopping day is set for Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. at Huntington Wal-Mart—where each child will have his or her own cop to shop with. There will be law enforcement officers from the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department, the City of Huntington Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and local town marshals.

Stoffel said local law enforcement will still have the same shifts covered on that day for the Huntington County area. He also said that some of the police who will be taking the kids shopping are former law enforcement from Huntington County.

“We’ve got some guys who are retired that want to help out with this and with a record year we can use all of the help,” Stoffel said.

The monies used to fund the event come from a $2,500 “Community Giving Grant” that finances a good portion of the sales. In addition to other local funds, Stoffel said some of the finances come straight out of the officer’s pockets.

In telling several heart warming stories of past “Shop with a Cop” events, Stoffel recalled one gathering where a little girl was shopping with him and she had put some adult makeup and a strawberry-vanilla candle in the cart.

“I said the makeup might have been a little old for her, and she looked up with those big eyes and said ‘no, its not for me. This is what I am going to get for my mom’ and I told her we would get that for her mom and she could go shopping too,” Stoffel said. “There are just so many good people in this world, and this is just one example of that.”

City of Huntington Police Chief Chad Hacker said many of the kids think of their family members when they are shopping with the cops.

“It’s just amazing. These kids want to get something for mom, or their dad, or their brother and we let them know that it is their time,” Hacker said. “Every year its special. Meeting these kids up there and all of the work that goes into is just wonderful.”

Hacker said the kids are allowed to use some of the money to buy toys and some of the money to buy clothes – adding that seeing the event get bigger each year is good for police interaction, but unfortunate because that means more families are experiencing financial strain near the holidays.

Both Hacker and Stoffel said that building up to the event is very special for each of their departments because the officers get really excited to help give back to their local community.

“We’re making sure the kids have a nice Christmas and get some good gifts, and that’s what its all about,” Hacker said.