By Cody Willoughby
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58 held its annual Christmas Outreach Program and Services (C.O.P.S.) event on last Friday, extending Christmas spirit to dozens of Miami County families.
The event took place on Friday, Dec. 8, at Meijer, located on Main Street in Troy, and began at 6 p.m. Each family in need was paired with a local law enforcement officer, who escorted them through the store to fill a cart.
The long-running C.O.P.S. event has become an important tradition for Miami County officers.
“We’ve been doing this as an outreach for approximately 25 years,” said FOP Lodge 58 President Billie Ray. “Meijer graciously gives us a donation to help out families in need, whether it’s a victim of crime, someone who lost their job, or a family dealing with illness. These are the kinds of things we look for in those we help out. We have people call in and give us their names. We talk to them about how many children they’ve got, and what their circumstances are. If they’re approved for the program, we ask the parents to come out here and shop for the children. They’re permitted to spend $100 per child. “
Each year, money is banked for the event by various donations and special-event fundraising held by Lodge 58.
“We had a golf outing in July, and the money we raised went into a special account that we saved for this event,” Ray said. “We accept donations into the account all year. “
Along with an allotted gift-shopping budget, participating families are also gifted with a Christmas dinner.
“The meals that we give are gotten from Meijer and feed 6-8 people,” Ray said. “We provide either a ham or turkey meal, and it comes with vegetables, potatoes, dressing, and other sides. The reason it’s so important to find out the number of people in each family is due to these meals. One family had nine children, so they’re receiving multiple meals.”
The event brings in participating officers from Troy, Piqua, Tipp City, and Covington police departments, as well as participants from the Sheriff’s Department, Miami County Victim Witness, and other offices.
“We run the presents through, we bag them, we take them out to our FOP lodge to wrap them, and on Wednesday we’ll load everything up and make deliveries to the families with Santa Claus present,” Ray said. “Tonight, we’ve covered goods for 80 children. We’ll probably do close to 100 before it’s all said and done.”
Overall, the experience continues to prove rewarding not only for participating families in need, but also officers who volunteer, as each year more new volunteers show up to lend a hand.
“I’ve been a member of the FOP for at least 15 years, but this is the first year I’ve actually been here to do it,” said Covington Police Chief Lee Harmon. “I’ve always watched the other guys and ladies do it. It’s a great feeling that we can help out people in the community who are so supportive of us year-round.”
The C.O.P.S. event is sponsored by Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58, Meijer of Troy, and donations from private citizens.
For more information, visit www.fop58.org.