By Kristin Bednarski
Children in need from local Clermont County schools were able to have a very special Christmas this year thanks to the annual Shop with a Cop event in Union Township.
The event is a made possible by a partnership between the American Legion Post 72, the Union Township Police Department, Meijer, and LongHorn Steakhouse in Eastgate.
Ron Hartman, a member of the post who helps organize the event, said five elementary schools in Clermont County each selected several students in need to participate in the event.
“I’ve been involved for 40 years,” Hartman said. “This is what Christmas is all about.”
Hartman said the legion raises money each year to buy the children toys and they also receive a sizable donation from Meijer. He said the Union Township police officers donate their time and LongHorn Steakhouse provides lunch for the children.
When children are selected to participate in Shop with a Cop, Hartman said they are asked to write a letter to Santa. He said members of the legion take the wish lists and buy the children presents the night before the event.
When they arrive at the post the morning of the event, they are taken in a limousine to Meijer, where Union Township police officers personally help the children pick out items that were requested by their parents including clothes, shoes, pajamas, socks and more.
Both the children and the police officers enjoyed spending time shopping together.
“It’s something you can do to give back,” Mike Mills, a police officer with the Union Township Police Department, said.
Sgt. Tony Rees, also with the department, said he has been participating in the event for around 14 years.
“I get a kick out of seeing these guys,” Rees said. “We don’t normally get to to see them this young and it’s nice to make an impact on them.”
Employees from Meijer also attended the event and helped everyone find what they were looking for.
“For us it’s all about the kids,” Donna McCabe, secretary at Meijer in Eastgate, said.
McCabe said she has been involved with the program since she began working at the store. She said they look forward to hosting the event each year.
“We get excited about it,” McCabe said. “The whole store does.”
Store Director Todd Herrmann said this is his first year at the store and his first year to be a part of the event.
“I think it’s great,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said he likes the fact that Meijer can partner with organizations and businesses in the community to make a difference.
“It’s important to be involved in the community and local area,” Herrmann said. “You have to be a local partner to do that.”
When the children get back to the American Legion post after lunch, Hartman said Santa is waiting for them with the toys and gifts that they wished for in their letters to Santa.
Hartman said the children are always surprised and excited when they realize Santa has brought them presents.
“For some of them, this is the only Christmas they will get,” Hartman said.