MIAMI COUNTY — Christmas will be a little merrier for some county children, thanks to local law enforcement.
On Friday, Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 58 members conducted their COPS For Communities program at the Troy Meijer store. The Christmas outreach program enables children and families who are having difficult times to enjoy the holiday season with lodge-donated presents and food.
In 2014, the program helped 84 children; this year, they were helping even more, according to president Billie Ray.
“What we look for are those who lost their job, those who have had medical expenses,” Ray said. “Those that have been down on their luck.”
Ray said the names of children come through Miami County Victim Witness, the Miami County Recovery Council, the prosecutor’s office and health departments. Ray said children are also identified when their parents call in or talk with local police, looking for help.
Ray said there also are several older handicapped children who are helped each year as well.
Parents met law enforcement officers at the Meijer store on Friday to pick out $100 worth of gifts for their child. Ray said to make the holidays bright, they request parents pick out at least one toy for each child to go with the clothing items parents mostly choose.
Ray said this is a popular event and officers volunteer their time to shop with the parents, and those on-duty officers who have a few minutes to spare will even stop by the store to interact with the parent shoppers.
“The reward is seeing the people come to Meijer to shop for their children. Because without this, their children might not get gifts otherwise,” Ray said.
The presents are then taken to the lodge, where law enforcement members and their families and friends wrap each and every gift, Ray said.
On Wednesday, Santa and this elves — also made up of law enforcement and their families — will head out beginning at 5 p.m. to deliver the packages to the children’s homes.
“Santa has back-up,” Ray said jokingly.
But on a serious note, Ray said, it is the highlight of the season for some law enforcement members.
“When Santa walks in and their eyes light up, it is just amazing,” Ray said. “Very rewarding.”
Funds for COPS For Communities have been raised through the Fraternal Order of Police annual golf outing, the lodge’s annual community fundraiser, private donations and the Troy Meijer store. This year, the program received donations from Abbott Laboratories, Dolly Packaging, Farm Credit Mid-America, Howell Construction and Family Video. Private donations also were received from Brian Oldham of Sidney and Tom and Patricia Deeter of Covington.
Along with the gifts, each family gets an entire Christmas meal that is prepared and ready to be heated up; two meals are provided for larger families, making sure there are gifts and food in the home for Christmas.
The Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 58 is made up of law enforcement organizations in Tipp City, Troy, Piqua, West Milton, Covington, the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, and the county’s adult parole and probation departments.
Other programs and services that the Miami County COPS For Communities assists include but are not limited to: Special Olympics, Little League baseball/softball programs, Little League football, soccer associations, basketball programs, designated torch runs, youth golf programs, Dayton Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.
“Police officers are here to help people, too,” Ray said. “It’s really heartwarming for the officers to know we can help the children in the county in need during the holidays.”
Reach Melody Vallieu at (937) 552-2131, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TroyDailyNews