By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
It takes a lot of organizing and plenty of generosity from the public. But making sure 65 needy children receive coats, shoes, new clothes and a couple of toys for Christmas makes all the work worth it.
“A couple of years ago a man stopped Lee Miller [retired New Albany Police Department officer] while he was shopping for a kid and told him the program helped him when he was a kid,” said NAPD Sgt. Julie Condra. “It’s those types of stories that keep you going. It’s all about bringing kids and the police together.”
The Cops For Kids [Shop With A Cop] program is sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99 Lee Deich Memorial. This year’s shopping event will be Dec. 4 at Meijer in New Albany.
Condra, who is chairman of the annual program, said school counselors help organizers pick out 65 needy children each year. A police officer will pick up each child the day of the shopping spree and take them to Meijer where they will be paired with a volunteer. After a couple of hours of shopping, the children will be taken to Northside Christian Church for a pizza party. The officer will take the child home following the festivities.
Each child, between the ages of 5-12, has about $250 spent on them for items like coats, boots, shoes and clothing. The children also each get a small toy or two.
Ralph Hines, a retired NAPD officer who still works in the department’s traffic division, started a car show 14 years ago to help raise funds for the yearly shopping event. The show, held the second Saturday in June each year at Huber’s, has continued to grow. This year, there were 400 cars in the show. Money raised from the event, along with sponsors in the community, totaled $28,000 this year.
“We couldn’t do it without Ralph,” Condra said. “Without the car show Ralph puts on and donations he gets, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Hines said the department didn’t have enough money to fund the program, which is why he started the car show. It began on the riverfront, but quickly outgrew that area and was moved to Huber’s. Hines said the Falls City Mustang Club donates time and helps organize the show each year.
“Everything we take in goes to the kids. What we don’t spend stays in there for the next year,” Hines said. “They [Mustang Club] help us judge and give us the money. Huber’s has just been tremendous. They go the extra step.”
Another aspect of the program is for kids, who may fear or think negative of police, to spend quality time with the officers.
“The kids are going to grow up one day and remember this,” Hines said. “We are there when they need us and not just to take them to jail.”
“I have parents come up to me throughout the year and thank me,” Condra said. “It’s a positive connection between cops and kids.”
Papa John’s donates the pizza each year. For the first time this year, the shopping event will take place at Meijer and the party will be at Northside. In the past the event has been held at Walmart and the party at the National Guard Armory.