The Edmond Sun

December 7, 2012

Officers, kids connect via Shop With a Cop

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — It’s been a rough year for Brandy Tillman’s family.

In May, her husband was in a car crash. For a while, all of his paycheck was going for a rental car. Then he lost his job in November.

Tillman, who has been an Edmond resident since 2008, has three children, ages 13, 11 and 8. On Dec. 16, thanks to generous citizens, the Edmond Fraternal Order of Police and Target, Tillman’s youngsters will get to shop with a cop. Without help from the community they wouldn’t be able to buy Christmas gifts this year, Tillman said.

When she received the letter from the HOPE Center notifying her that her children would be part of the program, she could not contain her emotions.

“I cried when I got the letter,” Tillman said. “The program reinforces the idea of community. Everybody’s not out for themselves.”

Before her family moved here, her childrens’ opinion of police officers was less than flattering, Tillman said. Since they’ve been in Edmond, their opinion of officers has improved to the point where they know if they need help they can go to an officer at school, a message she gives them as well, Tillman said.

Tillman also taught her children about the need to help others. Her 13-year-old daughter tries to help other children at school.

Children like those with the Tillman family who would otherwise not receive any Christmas gifts are referred by the HOPE Center, and the event is sponsored by the Edmond Fraternal Order of Police. Officers give freely of their time each year to help make Shop With A Cop a success.

A child is paired with an officer and the two go shopping. The amount of money spent per child depends on donations and the number of children.

Edmond FOP President Jimmy Gwartney said last year a record 79 children spent an average of $155 thanks to generous citizens who help officers connect with local kids. This year, the Edmond FOP has the names of 62 participants with 15 more on a waiting list pending receipt of enough funds, Gwartney said.

For the officers, it’s a humbling experience, and for the children it’s a chance to buy themselves and a few of their loved ones a special gift, said Gwartney, a police officer who has been heading up the local Shop With A Cop program for the last couple of years. Oftentimes children want to just spend their money on others and officers have to kindly insist that they buy something for themselves, he said.

HOPE Center Executive Director Chris Sperry said Shop With A Cop is a great program that connects children with cops, who are their heroes. Both the children and cops benefit.

“It’s so exciting to see the kids’ faces because officers are such a big deal to them,” Sperry said.

Gwartney said the Edmond FOP encourages citizens to make a donation to its Shop with a Cop program. Any size donation is much appreciated. Financial donations may be mailed in or dropped off at the Edmond Police Department, 23 E. First St. Checks should be mailed to: Edmond Shop with a Cop, P.O. Box 5441, Edmond, OK 73083. | 341-2121, ext. 108