Cops and Kids helps local children have a good Christmas

The Fitch brothers knew what they wanted while shopping Saturday morning at Walmart Supercenter in Seymour.

Devin, 14, went to the men’s apparel department and picked up everything he needed. Daniel, 13, picked out shoes and clothes along with a speaker and a couple of drones. Matthew, who recently turned 12, also got clothes and shoes and picked out a remote-controlled car and a drone.

Each of the Crothersville boys had $150 to spend thanks to the yearlong fundraising efforts of the Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 for its Cops and Kids program, and they had the privilege of shopping with Seymour Police Department Capt. John Watson.

“It was pretty cool. It was a good learning experience,” Devin said of shopping with a cop. “I thank God for it.”

Daniel said he liked everything about the experience.

“I loved spending time with a cop,” he said.

Watson will celebrate 19 years with SPD in February, and he said he has participated in Cops and Kids, formerly known as Shop with a Cop, for most of those years.

“Just seeing the kids, just cut them loose and let them go get whatever they want,” he said of what he likes about the annual shopping trip that pairs local law enforcement with kids.

Each year, he gets to meet a different family.

“It’s interesting to see the kids and just talk to the kids and talk to them about their family life and talk to them about school and how important school is,” Watson said. “It’s great, and it’s great working up to this because a lot of work we do throughout the year, ultimately, this is the end result, to see all of our hard work come through, all of the extra time that we put in raising money for these kids.”

Watson said it’s great to be able to give back to the kids.

“In this day and age with the negative views of law enforcement, these kids are like, ‘You know what? These cops are just like me. They are human beings,’” he said.

C.J. Foster, president of the local FOP, said 90 kids benefited from Cops and Kids this year.

A big part of the funding came from the sixth annual FOP Pre-Scoop Cruise-In and Car Show in August. Plus, Centra Credit Union in Seymour again chose Cops and Kids to benefit from the Holiday Giving Program, private donations were given and Walmart Supercenter and Walmart Distribution Center, both in Seymour, awarded grants.

“It’s good to see that people and businesses support a great cause,” Foster said.

Sehrish Sangamkar, branch manager for Centra in Seymour, said the company matches funds raised dollar for dollar. She was happy to be there Saturday to help out any way she could, and she even had the foreign exchange student she’s hosting shop with a family.

“Seeing all of this happen, it just makes it all worth it,” she said. “Every year, we have the option if we want to pick a different program, but we still choose this because it’s our county kids that we’re helping. It’s for the children who are not able to have Christmas if it wasn’t for this program. That’s all it’s about.”

Along with the items kids picked out, each family received a food box with a frozen turkey, vegetables, rolls and a dessert as they checked out. Then they picked up a cookie and got their picture taken with Santa on the way out.

Foster said his favorite part is seeing the kids smiling, and he appreciates the law enforcement officers and their families spending time on a Saturday morning to shop with the kids.

“It’s good for them to be involved in the community, and it’s good to see them get out and talk with the kids in a relaxed (environment),” he said.

Brad Barker said he started at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in 2011 and has been a part of Cops and Kids every year. Even though he recently became an Indiana conservation officer, he still showed up Saturday morning ready to shop with a local family.

“I do everything I can to be here every year,” he said. “I love interacting, meeting new families and hopefully making friendships that will last a long time. It’s great to be a part of the organization, and it’s very nice that the businesses donate to help out with this and all of the work that the FOP does with the car show to help benefit this. It’s just great. It’s a great thing to be a part of.”

On Saturday, he shopped with Wanda Powell and her two sons.

She said the $150 each of them got to spend was a big boost.

“That helps me out a whole lot. You just don’t even know,” she said. “I’m just so happy to be able to do this and be a part of it. I’m just humbled. I appreciate it.”

Being a single mom has its ups and downs, and while it’s not easy at times, Powell said something like Cops and Kids is a positive.

“I really appreciate the help from these guys because it has really been a struggle,” she said. “It’s going to make a real big difference. It really is. I’m just going through a tough time right now, and this is really going to help out a lot.”

Amber Garner, a dispatcher for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, had a unique opportunity to shop with her nephew, Aiden Pierson, 11.

Pierson shopped for himself, but he also made sure to get three items apiece for his siblings.

“It’s coming from your heart,” he said.

This was Garner’s second year being a part of Cops and Kids.

“Oh, I love this. It’s so fun to get to watch these kids,” she said. “You never know what kind of life they live, where they come from, what they do, what they don’t have, what they can’t have. This might be the one time of year they get anything, and it’s fun watching them all run around and shop.”

She said the shopping trip is unique, too, because it gives law enforcement from different agencies a chance to interact outside of work.

“It’s fun to come in and run around with each other and see each other and just goof off outside of the stressfulness of what we do,” Garner said. “This is just a fun morning … to be able to see the happiness and just to get to be a part of it.”

Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer said Cops and Kids is a great opportunity to help kids and spend time with them.

“It’s just a chance to give back,” he said. “We’re all so fortunate to work in this community, and to give back to our community, it’s always just a fortunate thing. Talking to the family and they’re telling us stories about their lives and then we tell them about our lives, we have so much actually in common. It’s just really neat. The families may not have that great of a Christmas without the FOP lodge, and I’m thankful that the lodge does so much for all of the kids.”