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2 Columbus charities miss goals for 2013

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Two Columbus holiday charities fell just short of their 2013 financial goals.

Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund raised $78,200, with the goal at $80,000, according to 2013 Cheer Fund co-chairman Capt. Mike Wilson. The funds collected in 2013 will be used to finance this year’s program, Wilson said.

In December, the 84-year-old charity provided 1,357 children with gift boxes with an average value of $60, Wilson said. The charity served 119 more children than from the previous year.

“It wasn’t a drastic increase,” Wilson said. “But it shows people are still recovering from tough economic times, still trying to provide for their own families and still struggling to take care of their obligations.”

Meanwhile, the Shop With a Cop program, sponsored by the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, collected just more than $39,000 in December, falling a bit short of the “$40,000 in 40 days” goal established by FOP Lodge 89 President Alan Trisler.

Like the Cheer Fund, Shop With A Cop — legally titled the FOP Children’s Opportunity Program — saw an increased need during the 2013 holidays. For the full year, ‘Shop With A Cop’ collected $41,476, but spent $51,472 to serve more than 275 local children, according to Trisler.

The lodge was forced to dip into its coffers to make up for the nearly $10,000 shortfall, Trisler said. “Many people don’t realize that we assist local children all year, not just at Christmas,” he added.

Members of the FOP are already collecting funds, and making up the shortfall is a goal, Trisler said.

Shop With A Cop provides local kids with the opportunity to shop with an officer to purchase clothing, schools supplies and toys for Christmas for the child.

The Cheer Fund provides each child with gift boxes containing four new toys, three gently-used toys, books, a stuffed animal and small stocking stuffers including candy and fruit, Wilson said. In 2013, the Cheer Fund also distributed food baskets to 214 elderly residents — the same as in 2012.

Almost half of all Cheer Fund donations arrive in the final three weeks of the year — and it isn’t all provided by residents with deep pockets, Wilson said.

“Although so many are still struggling, every demographic you can possibly imagine donates to the Cheer Fund,” Wilson said.

A young boy came to a fire station with his grandmother late last year and gave the Cheer Fund the $10 bill he had just received as a birthday gift, Wilson said.

It’s also not unusual for a low-income resident to impulsively stop by a firehouse and hand over a $5, $10 or $20 bill — whatever they can spare at the time, Wilson said. It’s the combination of lots of small donations received from all segments of the community last year that will allow the Cheer Fund to continue its mission when Christmas rolls around again, Wilson said.

How to help

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 is seeking donations to make up for a $10,000 shortfall after last December’s ‘Shop With A Cop’ program.

Donations may be mailed to: FOP #89, P.O. Box 204, Columbus, IN 47201. They may also be given to any local officer, or by contacting lodge President Alan Trisler at 376-2600.

Contributions to the Columbus Fireman’s Cheer Fund may also be made at any time during the year. Donations may be dropped off at any city fire station.

Changing of the guard

A change in leadership will occur with the Columbus Fireman’s Cheer Fund later this year.

Mike Wilson, who just completed a three-year term as the charity’s co-chairman, is now serving the organization as a board member and spokesman.

His partner, Bryan Brown, will stay on temporarily as sole chairman until two new firefighters are recruited to begin their three-year terms as co-chairman.

Although the organization has civilian board members and has evolved into a community charity, the two chairmen are required to be full-time city firefighters, Wilson said.

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