Shop With A Hero: The History
You may have seen it mentioned, maybe even took part in one way or another, but do you really know the whole story about Shop With A Cop? It’s not the first of its kind and with a challenge at hand, it won’t be the last.
A group of former Byrnes Mill Police Officers brought the idea to Byrnes Mill Police Department in 2013 after hearing of a similar program in another area. The mission is simple – to help kids and their families [who may not otherwise] have a better holiday season. The first year they were able to help two families; a total of three children. The program, which grew slowly at first, has now given the Byrnes Mill Police Department the chance to make the holiday season a little brighter for over 100 children and their families [each year]. In 2016, they were able to provide gifts for 103 kids and celebrate with over 300 people who attended the annual Shop With A Cop banquet.
“It would be incredible to be able to do that again this year,” said Gary Dougherty, Director of Community Relations. “For a small department, it’s pretty amazing. Everyone really pitches in and helps out.”
Children who are currently in Foster Care or who are from Jefferson County whose names come from Family Services, local schools and churches, COMTREA or by personal recommendations are added to a list at the Department. They then narrow down the list by cross referencing names with other area organizations to remove duplicate names while also honing in on the most important needs.
“The biggest challenge isn’t finding the need [though], it’s in raising the money,” he explained.
It’s fundraisers such as 50/50 drawings, gun raffles and private donations throughout the year that help to bring it all to fruition.
“Once the list is finalized, we assess our money situation in order to determine how many kids we’ll actually be able to help,” Dougherty said.
Based on their available funds, Byrnes Mill Police Department will work off of their final list, which is when the fun begins!
After choosing a date to shop, officers meet families at the High Ridge WalMart where they are paired up with one another. Children are given a budget of $100 each in which to choose whatever they’d like.
“Some of them will break your heart,” he explained. “Many of the kids just want to get something for their siblings or parents but we encourage them to [at least]
choose something for themselves.”
Once the shopping is done, all of the gifts are brought back to City Hall, where they are wrapped by members of Spring Hills Presbyterian Church and Point of Refuge. Then volunteers from the Police Department and City decorate the hall, complete with Christmas trees, donated by a local lot in Byrnes Mill, lights and more. Kids and their families as well as other community members are invited to the banquet, which includes an awards ceremony, good food and a visit from Santa himself, who helps to pass out the gifts before the night ends.
Each child gets to visit with Santa and take home a framed photo of themselves (and family).
It takes a whole team to put together an event of this magnitude -- from the caring vision of the former team to the community supporters who take part every year. There are a number of great community partners including Brian Stevens at Company B BBQ who does all the cooking for the dinner and donates some of the food.
“He has been instrumental in the success of the banquet,” Dougherty said.
Special Thanks goes to friends at Spring Hills Presbyterian Church and Point of Refuge Church for doing such a great job wrapping the gifts, WalMart in High Ridge for providing shopping “helpers” and a private check-out lane as well as a percentage off the total sales, Deer Creek USA Golf and Fore Honor Event Center for use of the space, volunteers and everyone who contributed to success of Shop With A Cop.
Byrnes Mill is hoping to expand the outreach and serve more kids by challenging other law enforcement agencies to start their own Shop With A Cop program.
If you’re interested in making a financial contribution to help make the holidays a little brighter for some deserving children, please send your check made payable to Spring Hills Presbyterian Church to:
Spring Hills Presbyterian Church
6247 Upper Byrnes Mill Road
Byrnes Mill, MO 63051
Attn: Shop With A Cop
Be sure to put “Shop With A Cop” in the memo line. All donations are tax deductible. Thank you for all your support!