Shopping with a cop: Law enforcement bring smiles to families

For deputies, police officers and troopers, they pursue a career in law enforcement to protect and to serve — those duties are not always isolated to stopping law breakers.
For a group of 55 members of law enforcement from police officers to dispatchers, from probation officers to victim’s advocates, they felt it was important to help make Christmas for 103 families more enjoyable and to bring smiles to children’s faces.
“This means a lot to us because we all get into law enforcement to serve and help others and to be able to help the people most in need really makes us all feel really good,” St. Marys Police Sgt. Mark Ernst said standing near the registers Saturday at the Wapakoneta Wal-Mart Supercenter as the Shop with a Cop program was in full tilt. “The important thing to note is for the past few years the recession has made it tough on everybody so there are a lot more people in need, and what is really nice is our supporters — the people, the businesses, the civic organizations — that give us money have not wavered.”
Ernst said the Shop with a Cop program started approximately 15 years ago and he, other officers and their spouses now look forward to the annual holiday event.
The spirit of giving spreads beyond the officers themselves.
“The event makes the holidays more special for us,” Ernst said. “We all look forward to this, my wife is here today, and you will see many of the officers’ spouses and children are here helping out.”
Along with receiving smiles from the children and parents benefitting from the program, Ernst said people will see them out in the store shopping with the children and making donations on the spot.
For Aaron Rohrbaugh, a member of the Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s auxiliary, the first year of participating in Shop with a Cop proved to be as rewarding as thought.
“For me, it is just a great opportunity to share the holiday season with the kids and to give back to the community,” Rohrbaugh said as the scanners beeped constantly at a number of registers where law enforcement officers and families checked out. “It feels great to know they will have a nice time at Christmas because of this and it is great to just share some time with these families.”
Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Justin Chisholm, who has participated in the event for three years, said he loves the interaction with the kids and “I want to do anything I can to help make their Christmas better because it makes me feel good.”
Participating in the event and talking with the families, he said he has learned to appreciate Christmas more.
“Some of the stuff that has happened to these families could happen to any of us, so I would hope that somebody would find it in their heart to do this for me and my family if we had some of these issues,” Chisholm said about the recession causing high unemployment or if an injury kept him from working. “This event really says a lot about the community and how we come together to make the holiday special.”
Wapakoneta Police Lt. Joe Welker and his wife, Jessica, have participated in the event the past four years and he said Shop with a Cop makes them feel good knowing they are helping to make Christmas more enjoyable for a family and the kids especially.
“I’ve also made friendships and when you are out working the roads and you see these kids and they still appreciate what you have done for them four or five years down the road,” Welker said. “It makes a lasting impression on these kids.
“Our job is not only about arresting people and disciplining people through the court system — this is a part of policing just as much as making an arrest, helping and serving the people in other ways,” he said.
Welker said the event also brings the law enforcement community closer together as they share some time together in a less formal atmosphere.
By sharing the Christmas holiday, he said he and his wife learned to appreciate what they have even on their worst day because others are facing challenges that are more daunting than he faces when he is having a bad time.
“When you see the kids smiling and they are not having a bad day,” Welker said, “it is nice to see them enjoying themselves and having a great Christmas.”