Christmas will come early for at-risk children Saturday when current and retired law-enforcement officers take them shopping for the annual Shop With a Cop program in Columbus.

When the Dec. 2 deadline for program assistance requests passed, 126 children were approved to participate in this year’s program, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Local 89, said Alicia McCreary Monroe, United Way 211 of South Central Indiana executive director.

About 40 officers will take the children shopping this weekend.

But like the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund, organizers of Shop With a Cop are known to help eligible children brought to their attention right up through Christmas Day, Monroe said.

“If there is a traumatic experience like a fire or flood, we’ll give to them,” said Alan Trisler, Fraternal Order of Police president and long-time event chairman.

Every year, the lodge attempts to raise $40,000 in 40 days for Shop With a Cop, as well as for year-round outreach programs that serve another 200-plus children, Trisler said.

While organizers still were about $10,000 short of their goal as last week, most donations come in during the final two weeks before Christmas, Trisler said.

Two Columbus-based financial institutions stepped forward to assist the FOP in their efforts.

Barcons Federal Credit Union gave Shop With a Cop a $600 check during a Dec. 5 presentation.

Barcons’ involvement was largely due to Indiana State Police Trooper Edward Olibo, who serves on the credit union’s board of directors.

Besides toys, the program also has the potential to enlighten the lives of local children with necessities such as clothes that most people take for granted, Olibo said.

“A number of these kids will forego getting toys just to receive those types of necessities,” Olibo said. “I’ve been with Shop With a Cop for 20 years, and it goes right to my heart.”

Last month, Centra Federal Credit Union announced it was raising funds for the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program, as well as the Shop With a Cop program.

The goal is to provide each of the Bartholomew County programs with $5,000, as well as the same amount to charities in Decatur, Jennings and Jackson counties, Centra Foundation president Lyn Morgan said.

While Centra’s formal campaign concluded Saturday, the amount that had been raised was about $3,000 short of what’s needed, Morgan said.

For that reason, donations will continue to be accepted for the rest of the month, Morgan said.

A number of other businesses have also assisted Shop With a Cop. For example, Indiana Smokehouse donated 10 percent of its sales one day last week to the program.

How to help

Tax-deductible contributions to Shop With a Cop are accepted at any time.

Checks made out to the Fraternal Order of Police Local 89 should also have “Shop With a Cop” written in the lower left-hand purpose area.

Donations may be dropped off at either the Columbus Police Department, located on the east side of City Hall, 123 Washington St., or the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, 543 Second St.

Checks can also be mailed to  Fraternal Order of Police, P.O. Box 204, Columbus, IN, 47201.

Shop With a Cop history

An annual fundraiser by the Fraternal Order of Police No. 89 to purchase Thanksgiving food baskets for needy families exceeded its goal by $2,000 in October 1994.

In response, FOP members met at the Earl L. Brown Memorial Lodge and decided to use leftover monies, as well as seek additional donations, to sponsor their first Shop With a Cop event two months later.

A total of 33 children, selected through recommendations by service agencies and the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., were each given about $100 to spend at a local department store during the first local Shop With a Cop on Dec. 20, 1994.

Under the long-time leadership of FOP President and Columbus Police Lt. Alan Trisler, Shop With a Cop now sets an annual goal of raising $40,000 in 40 days.

Besides providing a $200 shopping spree to an average 130 kids from at-risk families, Shop With a Cop also lends support to more than 200 additional children with support to the Columbus Behavioral Health Center, the Parkside Early Education Program and other community youth initiatives.

Lodge members include officers with the Columbus Police Department, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.