Shop with a Cop: A present for every child on Christmas morning
Every child deserves a chance to have a Merry Christmas. That is the inspiration behind the third annual Pierce County Shop with a Cop event, set for 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16 in Ellsworth.
About 60 officers from Pierce County law enforcement agencies (including police departments, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and State Patrol) will be paired with 60 children for a night of cookie decorating, pizza partying and shopping.
Children in need will be assigned to an officer, meeting at Zion Covenant Church in Ellsworth. They'll begin the festive evening with cookie decorating. At 5 p.m., they'll load up in about 40 squad cars and process to Shopko Hometown in Ellsworth, where they are allowed to spend about $100 for Christmas gifts for their families and themselves. Back at Zion, they are served pizza while wrapping presents and visiting with Santa Claus, who makes a special appearance, despite his heavy workload this time of year. The Pierce County K9 Officer Oden will also make an appearance.
"We support this project because we feel very strongly about the core value of always giving back to the community," said Pierce County Peace Officers Benevolent Association Interim President and Pierce County Sheriff's Office Investigator Doug Ducklow. "We always have from the beginning."
The event could not happen but for supporters' generosity, stressed PCSO Lt. Steve Albarado.
"Without community support, we wouldn't be able to do this," Albarado said.
People can look at PCSO's Facebook page to see which items are needed for the event, such as gift bags or wrapping paper. However, the financial contributions "are huge," Albarado said.
The program looks to include children who will be the most impacted.
"Through no fault of the parents, they may be displaced after a fire or lost their job, kids are in need," Albarado said of the children recommended for the program by area school districts, human services and churches. "We want every child to have a present to open on Christmas morning."
It's not uncommon for officers to purchase items for the children out of their own pockets, above and beyond the allotted $100. Especially if a child needs winter clothing.
"Throughout the entire year, officers see devastation or things most people wouldn't ever want to see," Albarado said. "It's important for them to be part of something not negative."
Plus, the rapport developed between children and their assigned officers is valuable.
"The officers love this event," Albarado said. "It's very popular. Some stories we hear are very heart-wrenching. Believe it or not, there are children in our community who don't get a present on Christmas morning."
A "Shop with a Cop" account has been set up at Bank Mutual in Ellsworth for donations. If you're interested in sponsoring a child or making a donation, contact Sheriff Nancy Hove or Albarado at 715-273-5051.