The Arkansas City Police Department has a long history of giving back to the community.

One of the ways ACPD officers do so is by providing an annual “Shop with a Cop” program.

This program provides underprivileged children with the opportunity to shop for their own Christmas presents.

The local Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 6 is the organization that makes this event possible every year.

Shop with a Cop kicks off

Last Saturday, Walmart’s toy section was flooded with families and their uniformed companions.

Shop with a Cop

Courtesy photo

One of the mothers, Mika, was able to bring her two oldest children to the event with the help of her daughter’s stepmother.

Jasa, who turned 6 that day, was very sure of what she wanted to bring home, as was Anthony, who turns 4 on Christmas Eve.

Both children were quiet, but zeroed in on their wish lists quickly.

For Jasa, it was a Doc McStuffins care cart and some Baby Alive dolls.

“Doc McStuffins” is a children’s television show in which a little girl pretends to be a doctor for all of the toys she and her brother own.

The cart gave Jasa all of the “tools of the trade,” so to speak, to doctor her own toys.

Anthony was interested in one thing only — PJ Masks.

These characters are from the television show of the same name, in which they fight crime after dark.

He was able to name each character and never wavered from his decision about his purchases.

Helping those in need

Jasa’s and Anthony’s family was paired with ACPD employee Demi Ames.

Shop with a Cop

Courtesy photo

Ames is a full-time nursing student who works part-time in the records division.

She is one of several employees who take this opportunity to give back to the less fortunate.

“I just left an abusive relationship,” Mika said. “Money has been really, really tight. My bills are so far behind.”

The water in their home was turned off the other day, but through her support system, it was able to be turned back on.

“People say that they’re afraid to leave (abusive) domestic relationships because of the financial stability,” she said.

“He was the bread-winner in our house and has been for the last six years.”

But thanks to Shop with a Cop and other changes, things are starting to look up in her home.

“Last night was my second night (at work),” Mika said. “I just got a job, just now.”

Need is growing

Shop with a Cop is organized through the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter, but it is through other ACPD officers and local schools that members are able to find children who are in need.

“We ask officers on the street for possible candidates, asking if they have run across some children while they have been on a call (who) would might be in need of some assistance at Christmas time,” said ACPD Detective Lt. Jim Holloway, who currently heads Lodge No. 6.

“We also reach out to the elementary schools and ask school secretaries or teachers for names of potential children.”

This year, the department was able to help 18 children. But the need is growing each year.

This year, there were 12 kids who were unable to benefit from the program due to the limited amount of funding the FOP had available.

“We spend $100 per child and, after shopping with the kids, we invite them back to the police department, where we have snacks and help the kids wrap all the gifts they purchased,” Holloway said. “We provide the wrapping paper.”

Donations to the Shop with a Cop program can be made through the police department, located at 117 W. Central Ave.

Anyone wishing to contribute can give their contribution to an officer who is on duty and indicate the donation is for Shop with a Cop.