ENON — Big smiles and heartfelt hugs were everywhere as Enon police officers shared the holiday spirit of giving at the department’s Fourth Annual “Shop with a Cop” on Saturday, Dec. 5.
The “Shop with a Cop” program partners economically disadvantaged children living in the Greenon Local School District with village police officers for a morning of holiday gift shopping. Each year, Greenon Local School officials provide the village police department with a list of students who are experiencing economic hardships and would benefit from the program.
“Giving is what Christmas is all about, and this is our way of helping some underprivileged kids in the community,” Enon Police Chief Lewis Wilcox said.
The event, which was deemed a huge success by Wilcox, kicked off with the off-duty, uniformed police officers cordially greeting 21 bright-eyed and anxious students from Enon Primary and Indian Valley Intermediate Schools and their families as they arrived at the Enon Government Center at 8 a.m. Saturday. Each student enjoyed a special visit and a photo session with Santa and the officers before boarding a Greenon Local school bus for a fun-filled morning of holiday shopping at the Springfield Walmart Supercenter, located at 2100 N. Bechtle Ave.
Upon their arrival at the store, the students were paired up with Chief Wilcox, Police Lieutenant Mike Holler, Enon Administrative Assistant Kristy Thome, Officers Mark Gagnon, Dwight Richard and Paige Rector, and Mad River Township Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Wise.
The officers and students, who were allotted $100 each to spend, grabbed carts and quickly set out to shop the aisles of the toy and electronics departments. Some students also selected much-needed clothing items and shoes, as well as a variety of Christmas presents for their siblings and parents.
A second grader at Indian Valley Intermediate School proudly displayed several gifts chosen for family members, including jewelry for the mother, two Hot Wheels vehicles for the father and a toy cell phone for the little sibling.
“I got a tablet and a case for it too,” the enthusiastic student added.
A first grader at Enon Primary School took a spin on a bright red bicycle as the student’s sibling loaded the cart with a My Life doll and doll luggage.
“I really like this bike. It’s neat,” said the student.
The pair’s foster mother expressed her gratitude to the local businesses and individuals who made generous donations to the “Shop with a Cop” program throughout the year.
“I think it is wonderful that the officers take these kids who are needy and spend a morning shopping with them,” she said.
Another student patiently waited as the younger twin siblings browsed the isles of the toy department with their mother.
“I want to check the price of a tablet and see if I have enough money to buy it,” said the fifth-grade student.
Soon after the student expressed the Christmas wish, Officer Rector, who spent the morning shopping with the three children, returned from the electronics department with the good news that the student had ample funds to purchase a tablet and case.
“This is great program,” A participating parent said. “My three daughters are going to have a very nice Christmas this year.”
My Life dolls were also on the wish lists of another second grader at Indian Valley Intermediate School along with the student’s younger sibling. However, their sibling who also attends Indian Valley Intermediate School, noted that they would be purchasing clothes and shoes with the allotted funds.
“I really think this program is a fantastic idea,” a participating parent said. “[One of my children] was so excited that [they] couldn’t sleep all night and got up at 6 o’clock this morning.”
An accompanying parent said the shopping spree was a rewarding experience and fostered a positive relationship between the children and the police officers. One mother noted that she works two jobs and is also enrolled in the criminal justice program at Clark State Community College. Her goal is to become an Enon police officer one day and give back to the community as well.
According to Wilcox, area businesses and village and township residents have continually supported the police officers’ mission to raise the needed funds that have made a significant difference in the lives of many local children during the holidays.
“I want to express the department’s appreciation to our community for the generous donations. Together, we have made the holiday season a little brighter for 21 children who would not have had much to look forward to on Christmas morning,” Wilcox said.
For more information about the “Shop with a Cop” program, contact Chief Wilcox at 937-864-7870.
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.