By Jeff Gallatin
For police officers who take part in the annual Shop With a Cop program, the participation is as nice a present for them as the food and gifts are to the children and families involved.
“It’s a really chance for us to give back to our communities and the people in them,” said Bill Saringer, a patrolman for the North Olmsted Police Department and vice president for Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25, which contains Westshore police department members. “Sometimes, kids think police are the bad guys, and this is one real good way show that’s not the case. This gives them a chance to get to know us a little better by taking part in this event every year.”
Saturday’s event had some of the regular parts for Westshore children, along with a few new aspects. Chik-fil-A again provided a breakfast for the kids, which this year was at the Community Cabin in North Olmsted Park, instead of at the restaurant.
“It gave us a little more room,” Saringer said. “This really is a special event where all parts of a community come together, like the city being great about letting us use the cabin. The businesses who help us out like Chik-fil-A, Wal-Mart , Wellman & Griffith and Frankie’s Italian Cuisine. The others have worked with us for several years, and we always appreciate what they give us in items for the event as well as time. Frankie’s was new to us this year, but they’ve done community events for years, so it seemed logical to team up with them on this. They provided a lot of great food for lunch for us.”
In addition to the breakfast and lunch, in between the kids got the chance to ride over to the Wal-Mart in a police car procession of vehicles from all the different participating departments. Once there, the kids got to go in the store, each with a different officer, and shop with the gift cards provided by the participating police.
“All of the officers raise funds for this all through the year,” Saringer said. “It’s something we look forward to, just like the kids.”
Sometimes, a participating officer can get a pleasant surprise as well.
North Olmsted Patrolman Eric Morgan got one when he saw the name of a family involved in the program.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I went to school with this guy,’ when I saw the father’s name,” Morgan said.
For Morgan, the chance to reconnect with Mike Evans and his sons Jayden and Mykel was something special.
“It was really nice,” Morgan said. “Mike is a great guy and the kids and I had a lot of fun.”
Saringer said he enjoyed setting up the time between Morgan and the Evans family.
“I was on the phone with the father and he told me that a really good friend of his from school is a North Olmsted police officer,” Saringer said. “When he told me it was Eric, I told him Eric was one of the officers participating in the program and asked if he would be good with my having the kids go with Eric. He was, and it turned out great for all of us.”
Saringer said the event was again busy, noting that more than 400 kids were taken on three different shopping trips by three northern Ohio police lodges Saturday.
“We (Lodge 25) had 78 kids in it this year and 14 city police departments represented, as well as the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and the KeyBank police,” he said. “That’s a great turnout, but we’re shooting for even more next year.”