By: Assistant Police Chief John Davis
If you were awakened on December 20th around 7:00 AM to all kinds of sirens sounding along Highway 160 and wondered what was happening, I am here to tell you. What you heard was a large group of police officer’s from the City of Lamar, Barton County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, Greenfield Police Department, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Joplin Police Department giving a group of 104 kids a police escort to the Lamar Wal-Mart Super Center for the 8th Annual Lamar Police Department Shop With A Cop program. The program started off at the First Baptist Church in Lamar where the kids and officers were fed a breakfast by Melanie Smith and her family and friends. This year we received assistance serving food from a Sunday school class, headed by Steve Gilkey from the Lamar First Christian Church.
After a hearty breakfast the kids were loaded onto the Oakton Methodist Church buses, driven by Harvey Fry and Gary Colin, and given the escort to the Lamar Wal-Mart, where they met Santa, who was delivered in style by Fireman Ken Reinert Sr. of the Lamar Fire Department on Old Engine 38 from the Lamar Fire Department. A big thank you to Fireman Reinert and Chief Rawlings for making this possible.
Once inside the store the kids were paired with officers and a-shopping they went. Most of the kids, ages 5 through 12, were given a $100 dollar gift card to spend on themselves. Children of the same families not in that age group yet below the age of 16 were given a $50 dollar gift card. The kidsand officers were given a photo of themselves with Santa to remember the day. There were many smiles on the kids’ faces, and even bigger smiles on the officers’ faces.
The program is designed to take children shopping for Christmas and allow them to become better acquainted with police officers, learning that they can trust officers in times of need. Some of the kids bought presents for their parents or other loved ones and needed Christmas gift wrapping. This year once again a large group from the First Baptist Church of Lamar volunteered and supplied the entire gift wrapping material to help the children wrap the gifts needing wrapped. Thanks to all the generous donations from the people of Barton County, each of the 44 families represented was given a food basket as well. This included everything they would need to make a well-rounded meal for their family, including sugar cookies.
As I have said over the last 8 years, this program cannot exist without the help of a lot of other people. The Police Department was out in full force on the night of Thanksgiving at the local Wal-Mart Store doing our annual Hat Block fund raiser. For all who braved the cold to help raise money, thank you. Over $2200.00 dollars was raised in a little under 5 hours, a new record.
Our primary fund raiser is from letterssent to almost every business located in Barton County. I also place an ad in the Lamar Democrat announcing our fund raising efforts. Each year for the last 4 years we have raised a little over $11,000.00 dollars for the program, and this year we did a little better and raised a little over $13,000.00 dollars in about 30 days. That would not be possible without the more than generous support of our wonderful community, support I brag about constantly when I talk to officers from other agencies. I would like you all to know it is very much appreciate
Each year I try to thank each and every person who donates to this program because without their generosity we would not have some of the relationships that we have today with the youth of Lamar, Liberal, Golden City, Lockwood, and Jasper. Yes, you understood me correctly we not only take children from the Lamar area but we also include every school district in Barton County as well as Lockwood and Jasper schools. The reason we include Lockwood and Jasper is due to some of the donations coming from those communities when their citizens come to Lamar and shop and donate when we are collecting money on Black Friday in front of the Wal-Mart Store.
We also collect funds through organizations such as the Lamar Elks Lodge. shown to the right is the Elks Lodge making the donation to officers of the Lamar Police Department. The Elks Lodge is one of our highest contributors every year. Another organization that goes above and beyond is the Lamar Wal-Mart Super Center, managed by Kristi Mein. Not only do we receive a cash grant from them, but they also assist us in every way to be able to hold the event at their store. We basically take over their entire store for about 4 hours that morning; they bring extra people in and rearrange their store to accommodate us. If you’re doing the math along with me you will see that those two groups’ donations account for almost one-third of what we raised this year. We also receive donations from other groups, businesses, and individuals throughout our fundraising period in the month of November.
Thanks goes out to all the individuals and agencies that had a part in Shop With A Cop 2104. Without the many people contributing time and effort it would be impossible to pull off. I would like to extend a big thank you to all of the officers of the police department for their help and support for the program, as well as the Deputies from the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, as well as officers, deputies, troopers from Jasper County, Joplin Police Department, Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Liberal Police Department, and Greenfield Police Department. Each of the officers from these agencies donated their time to come and help us make lasting relationships with the 104 children we took shopping.