‘Shop with a Cop’ spreads holiday joy to kids

ESCANABA — An annual community tradition which teams up needy children to “Shop With a Cop” from Delta County is marking its 20th anniversary helping youth purchase Christmas presents.

The purpose of the annual fundraiser is to collect money so less fortunate children can buy gifts for themselves and their family members, explained Lt. Todd Tardiff from the Delta County Sheriff’s Department.

“Shop With a Cop” also allows kids and law enforcement to interact with one another in a positive and fun way, he added.

“Overall, I think it’s good for the community,” said Tardiff. “I think we (law enforcement officers) get more out of it than the kids.”

This year’s “Shop With a Cop” takes place on Saturday at Walmart in Escanaba.

The project was started by former Deputy Duane Couillard, a school liaison officer for outlying schools, who saw a need to buy Christmas gifts for less fortunate children. The first year of “Shop With a Cop” involved about 10 kids from the Big Bay de Noc, Mid Peninsula, and Rapid River schools.

During the past two decades, the fundraiser has grown to include about 50 grade school children from Escanaba, Gladstone, and other schools throughout the county, said Tardiff, also noting a similar program began two years ago for a smaller group of junior high kids.

“This thing has gotten so big because of the generosity of the people in Delta County,” he said, explaining donations come from area businesses, organizations and individuals.

In addition to the community donating money for the kids to buy presents at Walmart, McDonald’s provides lunch for the grade school children and the law enforcement volunteers who accompany them as they shop.

Over the years, volunteers from various community groups wrap the gifts during lunchtime so the presents are ready for the children to place under their Christmas trees when they leave the store.

Tardiff said the annual “Shop With a Cop” event makes law enforcement and the other volunteers feel good to participate in a positive activity with children who are not only thinking of themselves, but also buying presents for their family members.

Some kids bring a list of things to purchase for themselves and their family while others forget and have been reminded to buy something fun for themselves, he said.

“As an officer, it makes you feel good to see a good outcome,” added Tardiff.

Law enforcement who participate in the annual shopping event include personnel from the sheriff’s department, Escanaba Public Safety, Gladstone Public Safety, Michigan State Police, and the Department of Natural Resources.

Anyone wanting to make a contribution to the “Shop With a Cop” program can drop off or mail donations to the Delta County Sheriff’s Department at 111 N. 3rd St., Escanaba, MI 49829.