Brooksville, FL–Early Friday morning, starting at around 5:30 AM, over a dozen Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and Hernando County School District employees met at the Wal-Mart on Cortez Boulevard for the 11th Annual HCSO Shop with a Cop Program.
According to Denise Moloney, HCSO Public Information Officer and Community/Media Relations Manager, this year’s program served over 100 Hernando County families.
The Shop with a Cop program is designed to assist families in financial need, and to accomplish that goal, HCSO enlists the assistance of school resource officers, deputies assigned to the Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving program, and HCSD Students and Families in Transition advocates.
Moloney told the Standard that some families participating in the Shop with a Cop program may be sleeping in cars, and in tents.
Hernando County Sheriff, Al Nienhuis, has been a part of Shop with a Cop for the last seven years. Nienhuis is a giant advocate for the program; he retold an interaction he had with a parent at a previous Shop with a Cop event who had only brought formula and diapers to the checkout counter. He asked the parent why he didn’t get any toys and the parent told him that he needed the formula and diapers more than toys. Nienhuis, respecting the parent’s decision, found a way to put another gift card in the hands of the parent for the purchase of a few toys.
Parents who participate in the program voluntarily go through a vetting process that verifies financial need. Deputies, holding gift cards at checkout, also have markers that mark out barcodes and retain all receipts so that those who participate can’t return the items later for cash.
The vetting process to insure that funds raised in the community is used only for the purchase of toys for those in need did not damper the appreciative mood of participants. One unidentified mother, noticed the presence of media, came up, and said, “You make sure you put in something good. People are touched.” This year, participants were allowed to spend up to $150 per child. Participants also received pre-sorted bags of non-perishable food.
Patti Yost, Member Services Director of the Timber Pines Community Association, announced that their Village Walk fundraising event this year raised $17,000 for Shop with a Cop. Yost stated that the Timber Pines community has already started making plans for next year’s fundraising efforts. Along with Timber Pines efforts, the High Point and Brook Ridge communities also played a role, as did individual donors. Moloney stated that HCSO set a record this year in funds raised for the program. The event even received support from Wal-Mart staff as cashiers volunteered to come in early to assist.
The Shop with a Cop Program illistrates how community policing, school resource officers, and child advocates and social workers can collaborate together in a positive force in the lives of underprivileged and at-risk children.
Submitted by Lou Newman, Publisher, on December 17 at 8:14 PM
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