BENTON - This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Shop with a Cop program in Marshall County, the event which pairs members of local law enforcement together with area children in need at the holidays.
More than just a shopping trip, the program was created to help build relationships between the youth of the community and law enforcement, particularly among those who have been victims of crime or of circumstances beyond their control.
Each year, the lives of hundreds of children right here in our community are impacted in such a way that their first interaction with law enforcement becomes a negative one.
Shop With a Cop pairs these children with an officer for a fun-filled day of shopping, conversation and of bonding. While the children undoubtedly enjoy their experience, perhaps it can be said that the officers enjoy it even more.
“This is the highlight of the year for most of us,” Benton Police Officer Stephen Sanderson has said of his experience in helping to organize the annual outing.
Whether it’s a parent who has been arrested, or a child who has been a victim of a crime, there is a broad range of issues for which the program addresses.
Officers donate their time each year to the cause, picking the children up from their home or school in police cruisers, then taking them on an afternoon shopping trip, spending much needed quality time for both. It’s a day most of the children say they will never forget.
It certainly is for Marshall County Detective Matt Hilbrecht, who spends most of his time working sexual abuse and rape cases in the county.
“The way I see it, these kids have suffered enough going through the crimes they have endured,” Hilbrecht said. “It’s a great feeling to see their faces light up and to see them shopping, taking just a moment to forget about what’s happened during the year.”
Marshall County Detective Dan Melone echoes those sentiments in his role in helping to organize the event, as well.
Melone heads up the annual softball fundraising tournament set to take place this Saturday at Mike Miller Park, beginning at 9 a.m.
Teams are comprised of law enforcement, as well as related agencies including the Calvert and Benton City Police Departments, Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and Kentucky State Police.
The funds raised are then used to sponsor children selected for the program.
“We may not see homeless people living on the streets of Marshall County” Melone has said of the need for Shop With a Cop, “but there are a great number of children going without and unfortunately, as law enforcement officers, we see what others do not first-hand.”
With sponsorships of children often ranging in the $200 to $250 range, officers work very hard during this time of year to raise the needed funds.
“Children should not suffer because they have parents with problems or addictions or because they have been a victim of a crime,” Melone said. That’s why we do this program.”
The public is invited to come out on Saturday and support the officers as they raise funds for the program while enjoying a little competition among agencies. A portion of the proceeds from concessions sold will also be donated to Shop With a Cop.
If your family, business or organization would like to sponsor a child or children this Christmas season, please contact your local law enforcement agency at:
Marshall County Sheriff’s Office - 270-527-3112
Benton Police Department – 270-527-3126
Calvert City Police department – 270-395-4545
*Editor’s Note - The Shop with a Cop program is not open to applications as the children are hand-selected by officers and related agencies throughout the year.