TROY — Meijer served as the setting for an annual yuletide event on Friday known as the Christmas Outreach Program and Services (C.O.P.S.), organized by the Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58.
Each year, the event pairs Miami County families in need with a local law enforcement officer, who escorts them through the store to fill a cart with gifts and goods for the holidays.
Presents for approximately 70 children from 40 families were gathered, with a budget of $100 per child.
The event brings in participating officers from Troy, Piqua, Tipp City, and Covington police departments, as well as participants from the Sheriff’s Department, Miami County Victim Witness, and other offices. The long-running event has become an important tradition for Miami County officers.
“The local FOPs have been doing this as an outreach for over 25 years,” said FOP Lodge 58 President Billie Ray. “Lodge 58 has hosted the event each year since it formed in 2006. Meijer graciously gives us a donation to help out families in need, whether it’s a victim of crime, someone who lost their job, or a family dealing with illness. Officers on the road that get sent to a call involving a situation with a family in dire need of help will often send me that family’s information, and we’ll reach out from there.”
Along with an allotted gift-shopping budget, participating families are also gifted a Christmas dinner that feeds 6-8 people, which includes a ham or turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, green beans, and other sides. All Christmas dinners are provided by Meijer.
“If they have a large family and more than eight people need to be fed, we try to provide multiple meals,” Ray confirmed.
Each year, Lodge 58 raises funds not only for C.O.P.S., but also to benefit various non-profits and charities around the northern Miami Valley.
“The funds collected throughout the year at our lodge benefit the children’s hospital, Ronald McDonald House, various sports teams, and all kinds of different organizations dealing with children,” Ray said. “The C.O.P.S. event in particular was funded by two golf outings held over the summer and also some local donations.”
In attendance at the event was 7-year-old Hailey Bechtol, who recently donated $106 to FOP Lodge 58 to be used in the event.
On seeing her donation used toward gift purchases, Hailey expressed that she felt, “very happy.”
“If they didn’t have this, some kids wouldn’t have Christmas,” Hailey said.
Overall, the experience continues to prove rewarding not only for participating families in need, but also officers who volunteer, as each year more new volunteers show up to lend a hand.
“Every day, our officers see both the good and the bad out on the street,” Ray said. “This is a time for us to reach out and help people who have lost their jobs, have illnesses, or have lost a loved one. It’s very touching for the officers, and it means a lot.”
All presents purchased at the C.O.P.S. event will be prepared and wrapped at the FOP Lodge, and will be delivered to families by officers and Santa Claus on Wednesday, Dec. 12.
The C.O.P.S. event is sponsored by Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58, Meijer of Troy, and donations from private citizens.
For more information, visit www.fop58.org.