THE ISSUE: Marseilles’ Shop With A Cop program
OUR VIEW: Making a difference now — and later
Every year, what is the single best day for Marseilles Police Chief Jim Hovious?
You know the answer if you read Times reporter Steve Stout’s heartwarming story on Tuesday headlined “Marseilles girl volunteers as payback to charity.”
Hovious said that favorite day is when he helps escort a group of kids from families short on means for their Shop With A Cop excursion. It’s quite an event: There is breakfast, then shopping, then present wrapping and finally a pizza lunch.
The program has been going on for years with the help not only of police department members, but also Marseilles firefighters, ambulance personnel as well as city organizations and residents.
Now, however, there is additional help from Karlee Shaver, an Ottawa High School sophomore.
At age 5, Shaver was one of the kids on a Shop With A Cop trip. This year she was one of the escorts, who helped with the shopping, wrapping and generally assisted.
"My mom was a single mother and raised me as her only child,” Shaver said. “Ten years ago, she signed me up for the program.
“Even though I was young, I still remember my shopping trip with Chief Hovious as such a positive experience that I have been helping with the program now that I'm older," said Shaver, now 15.
Shaver said she and Hovious have remained close.
"Karlee is such a sweet girl and, through the years, we have become good friends," said Hovious. "It has been wonderful to see her grow up and we're glad she's now involved in volunteering to help us and the kids."
Hovious said this year each child had about $225 to spend solely from local donations collected over the year. He said the children were chosen by their individual needs or through belonging to families facing challenging circumstances.
"I love shopping with the kids,” Hovious said. “And, to me, one of the amazing things that happens is when other shoppers in the store see what we are doing, very often people come up and hand us money right there on the spot.”
The unique thing about the experience each year is that many of the kids we take to the stores want to buy gifts for their parents, their family, whoever. We often have to remind them to buy something for themselves. It is really something."
"I remember buying gifts for my mom and grandparents rather than just for myself,” said Shaver. “It was wonderful."
As Hovious knows, there is a powerful, positive plus to Shop With A Cop
The added benefit, he said, is this experience not only assists children who need help, but also it introduces many to local police officers for the first time. The hope is those positive relationships with law enforcement follow them as they age and encourage good choices.
Shaver is proof.
"This program has taught me respect for policemen and proved to me many times over they are the good guy," she said.
Marseilles is not the only police department with a Christmas program for kids. Our local police have big hearts. They are among the first to provide the something extra many kids need. For that we thank them all.
Would you like to help? Your local police department or the county sheriff’s office can tell you how.