The Durango Police Department’s annual Shop With A Cop program, sponsored through donations to Durango Lodge 8 Fraternal Order of Police, is now accepting public donations for the annual event set to take place Dec. 19.
The program matches children in need with a police officer for a day, who takes them shopping for clothes and toys. Each child is given a $125 gift certificate.
Donations will be accepted up until the day of the event.
Sgt. Geary Parsons, records supervisor with the Durango Police Department, said the program usually raises $10,000 to $12,000 through local donations, which are the primary funding sources for the program.
Last year, the program raised $13,500 for the event, providing 108 children the opportunity to go shopping, Parsons said.
“This event is put on by a person here and a person there just giving what they can,” Parsons said. “People in this community are so generous to help these kids have a Christmas.”
Children are selected for the program through a list sent to Parsons by the Department of Social Services. Once he receives the list of families in need, he selects those who are not already receiving help through other programs such as Project Merry Christmas to ensure they are not “double dipping” from charitable services.
When children and families arrive at Walmart for the event, they are matched with a police officer, who monitors their shopping and expenditures. Officers encourage the children to spend 60 percent of their money on new clothes and leave the remaining 40 percent for toys. One officer is usually assigned per family.
In order for a child and a responsible guardian to be matched with an officer, the child’s name must already be on the prepared list of approved families.
Parsons said the advantage of Shop With A Cop is that it provides older children the opportunity to go shopping. While Project Merry Christmas accepts only children up to 12 years of age, Shop With A Cop accepts children up to 16 years of age.
The event also helps build relationships between police officers and the community, as well as strengthening community bonds.
“It’s good to build our relationship with families and the community, but the event is really the community giving to the community, and we just happen to be the vessel that it happens through,” Parsons said.
Donations for the program, accepted until Dec. 19, can be sent to Durango Lodge 8, P.O. Box 2172 Durango, CO, 81302.
Sarah Ford is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at Denver University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.