By Craig Hastings
It’s Saturday night and several hours ago I participated in the Tuscola Police Department sponsored “Shop With a Cop” event. Now retired police officer Scott Reed organized this event several years ago and each year has been more successful than the last. This has always been Scott’s and Joyce’s event to plan and execute with any of the rest of us doing what they might ask each of us to do. I’ve stayed out of the mix because there has never been a need for me to intervene. These two have always done a superb job so all was well. Well, Scott moved from full time officer to part time officer and finally this year to no time officer so now what?
We still have Joyce filling in as part time secretary so we have someone still in the know how to proceed. We hired Pennie Timpler a few months ago to fill the full time secretary position so the obvious first move was to have Joyce teach Pennie the “how to” of the Shop With a Cop program. The two of them were to ask the rest of us to fill in the gaps as needed. As the donations are collected they are funneled through City Hall for safekeeping and to make sure all the proper auditing procedures are followed.
So tonight was the night that eight of us would meet with 25 children plus any of their family and friends at our local Shopko store. The store was wide open for each child to spend up to $100 on whatever their hearts desire…well as long as their parents agree. The $100 isn’t a per family amount but per child for as many children that are in the families chosen. Mostly once the event is organized and everyone is present in the store, the eight of us get to stand back and enjoy watching the children be their own Santa Claus.
I had not been to one of these events in the past because there wasn’t a need, and I wanted to stay out of Scott’s way, he had it under control. I was present this year because with a record number of 25 children being gifted this year we didn’t know how much help we might need. As it turned out, Joyce, Pennie, and Shannon ramrodded the event while the rest of us visited with the attendees. Standing there watching these kids dart in and out of the isles and studying each piece they picked up made me think about many things. Why is it that our society and those of most all countries around the globe are so out of balance? Why can’t those with more than they can ever use lend a hand or a dollar to those that likely never will have enough?
I wonder, could it be that those with enough are never exposed to those without that they just don’t understand the struggles of the less fortunate in their own communities they both live. I think, wouldn’t everyone that is able want to help the children in their own communities at Christmas if there was a way? After tonight I want to believe we at the Police Department maybe haven’t reached out enough, spread the word, or flat out asked, in order to do more for the folks here in Tuscola. It seems we have the same faithful, wonderful people donating year after year with few new people donating to the cause.
This year was a good year. We were able to lend financial support to every family that applied and qualified. There is a screening process we follow that starts with being a Tuscola resident family. Each year we do have families in need from surrounding communities ask for our help, which we have to deny. I wish that we could be financially capable to help. A child in need is a child in need regardless of community boundaries. Tonight the Police Department spent just under $3,000 for gifts and food donations which we feel is huge in a community of 4,000 people. But I know Tuscola can do better. We will reach out earlier and more often in 2019 in order that no child living here and in need has to say “Nothing” when asked what they got for Christmas.
The loving and caring people that donate to this cause are not solicited by us either. These people read or hear by word of mouth that it’s time again and the walk in traffic donations begin. Again, you provided a big part of any child’s Christmas, their presents, to 25 children this year just in Tuscola! The only thing that could make tonight any better for these 25 kids would be for all of these toys and cloths to be wrapped up and under a tree ready to be torn apart and opened Christmas morning. I’ll add that in my 38 years experience here I’ve been in more homes than I can remember that never had a Christmas tree set up at Christmas let alone presents to go under one. I’ll venture that most of you that read this column never experienced not having a tree as a child growing up. Do this job that we do and you’ll see many things you never experienced as a child in your home growing up.
We’re asking all of you now that we need your support in 2019. We want to expand this program so we can continue to do as we did this year and this is to NOT deny any child our help at Christmas. This isn’t about the police either. You can hate us, love us, not care one way or another about us, it doesn’t matter. We are simply the vehicle that provides the means to help children realize most what they think about at Christmas. My best moment tonight, the young girl that secretly showed us what she used part of her $100 on a small gift she picked out for her mom! If that won’t make a tear fall from your eye then you better go get a drink because you must be dehydrated! It was a good night tonight. Again, we at the Tuscola Police Department thank all of you that donated to the program. Without your support these 25 children might not have experienced the joy and the spirit of what Christmas is supposed to be for all children around the world. Merry Christmas!