Shop with a Cop brings joy to local children

ESCANABA — The Delta County Sheriff’s Department’s Shop with a Cop program has been around for over 20 years and continues to evolve.

The Shop with a Cop program pairs local police officers with disadvantaged Delta County children chosen by the children’s school. Together, they go on a Christmas shopping excursion. This year, that will occur Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Shop with a Cop has been in Delta County for over two decades. Donations from the community keep the program going.

“It’s been over 20 years — it’s been a long time. We had a deputy in the schools — his name is Dwayne Couillard, and he started this program. I don’t know how he ever found it, but at that time it just involved the county schools. So you’re looking at Mid Pen, Rapid River and Big Bay. It was just those three schools,” Deputy Lieutenant Todd Tardiff said.

Tardiff explained the Escanaba Walmart is one of the biggest supporters of the program and the store is also where the children are brought to shop.

Now the program has grown so big that Delta County Sheriff’s Department is no longer the only department that participates. The law enforcement officers in the program hail from the Sheriff’s Office, Escanaba Public Safety, Gladstone Public Safety and Michigan State Police Gladstone Post.

Tardiff said the reason for more police involvement is the huge increase in the children participating in the program.

“It was right around 10 — 10 kids,” he said. “We’d typically go shopping at Walmart and then we’d come back here to our department and go down into our basement. It was decorated. Then we would have pizza and snacks for the kids and we’d wrap the gifts. Now this thing has grown so big — I mean now it includes the two Gladstone schools, and Soo Hill and all the Escanaba grade schools too. So it went from a program of 10 kids up to 50 to 60.”

The schools involved with the program choose the children in first to sixth grades to participate in the event.

Tardiff explained another program similar to Shop with a Cop started a few years ago.

“We started two, three years ago to include the next group of older kids,” he said.

The new project is for middle school age children. Tardiff said it’s more casual than the big Shop with a Cop event. “We kind of do it after school,” he said. “It’s smaller so that’s usually about 10 kids.”

Donations for the program are collected year round and Tardiff said Delta County has been supportive of the program.

Anyone who would like to help the Shop with a Cop program can direct donations to the Delta County Sheriff’s Department.