Responding to a call for kindness

Officers from throughout county, other volunteers treat children who could use a little happiness in their lives to a day of Christmas fun during Shop with a Cop Event

    Being a police officer can be scary business, but scary took on a whole new meaning in Saukville last weekend.
    With a 9-year-old for a partner and armed with a shopping cart and Christmas gift list, Port Washington police officer Gary Belzer stood frozen in an aisle of Walmart.
    “I don’t know anything about dolls,” he said, half explaining the predicament to his partner, whose sister wanted a doll for Christmas, and half calling for help. “I only have boys at home.”
    Belzer was one of the officers from police departments throughout Ozaukee County, the Sheriff’s Office and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who took 29 children Christmas shopping at Walmart in Saukville and Meijer in Grafton during the third annual Shop with a Cop event organized and hosted by the Saukville Police Department.
 KID   Belzer survived his scare in the girls’ toy section, and like the other officers and volunteers who participated in the event seemed genuinely thrilled to help children who could use a little happiness at what is supposed to be the most joyous time of the year.
    “We often see these guys and ladies being tough and putting on that tough-guy facade,” Emily Neese, the Saukville Police officer who has organized the event since its inception, said of the officers who participate. “It’s so touching to see them put aside that persona and be so sweet and so kind to children who could really use it.”
    Held Saturday, Dec. 9, Shop with a Cop began with a breakfast for children and officers at the Saukville Police Station.
    Each officer was then paired with a child and dispatched to either Walmart or Meijer with a list of gifts for the child’s family and friends and $200 to spend.
    This year’s amount of $200 per child was the most the program has had to spend, and most of it was donated by Walmart and Meijer, Neese said. But there were other donors as well.
    “Someone just walked into the station one day and dropped off $100 for the program,” Neese said. “Then I was in Walmart buying the gift cards for the event, which as you can imagine was taking forever, when the guy behind me said, ‘I think I’m going to change lines now, but here’s $60.’”
    And when children go over budget, it’s often the officers who make up the difference.
    “I know they do this all the time, but I’ve never had an officer tell me they went over budget,” Neese said. “They just take care of it.”
    When Neese started the program three years ago, she had no idea how she was going to choose the children invited to participate in Shop with a Cop, so she turned to the experts — teachers and administrators at schools in the county who know more about what is going on in the lives of children than most.
    “Maybe it’s a child who has had a change in his or her home life, or had a parent move out, or had a death in the family, or had a parent diagnosed with cancer or whose family has some financial needs,” Neese said. “This year, the schools just kept sending us names. It’s just so hard to say no, and it turned out that the only children we turned down were ones who participated in the program before.”
    After shopping, it was back to the Saukville Police Station, where an army of volunteers — mostly support staff from law enforcement agencies throughout the county and spouses of officers organized by Laurie Miske, administrative assistant for the Saukville Police Department — were standing by with scissors and tape to wrap the gifts children will give for Christmas.
    There were also gifts for the children themselves, including used and refurbished bikes, bike helmets and locks donated by Rebel Converting of Saukville and Masterlock.
    “In addition, children get a secret Santa gift,” Neese said. “You’d be surprised at how gracious these kids are and how many don’t buy a gift for themselves.”
    Still there was more.
    “Last year we thought how cool would it be to send these kids home with a Christmas dinner,” Neese said.
    So Walmart and Meijer donated feasts — “veggies, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls and a giant turkey,” she said. “Meijer even threw in gingerbread house kits.
    “I drive a minivan-type vehicle, and I had to put my seats down just to fit all the food in my car.
    “If this is the only Christmas these kids have, and for some it may be, then at least they left the Saukville Police Station with gifts for their families and a Christmas dinner for their table.”    




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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