How do you take kids who may not get much for Christmas shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic? In past years, Monticello Police’s Shop With a Cop has raised money and taken them all to Wal-Mart in Savoy. That is not possible in 2020, but as they say, where there is a will there is a way, and adjustments have been made to continue to help children this season.
We asked Shop With a Cop founder and Monticello Police Chief John Carter to fill us in.
Journal-Republican: When did Shop With a Cop start in Monticello? How many did you serve last year?
John Carter: We started in 2014 with 19 kids. Last year we had 65 kids.
J-R: Tell me a little about what Shop With A Cop does around Christmastime?
Carter: On a normal year we invite officers to help shop and get transportation lined out. We give the kids a royal treatment with breakfast and limousine buses provided by Starr Limousine. We also buy the snacks and beverages for the ride over. We organize volunteers, and I also place a personal call in to Santa Claus and arrange for him to be there.
This year we will not have all the officers and volunteers, snacks and stuff. We will have Starr Limousine again this year to help officers transport and deliver gifts. This year we are taking Christmas lists and making the purchases on our own.
J-R: So the structure is different this year.
Carter: Due to the pandemic, we are unable to take the kids shopping. That doesn’t mean the need is gone, it means we have to do all the work. The kids make a list of what they want, officers make the purchase and officers will deliver them.
J-R: Why did you start Shop With a Cop?
Carter: I started Shop with a Cop in 2014 to have a way for the officers to give back to the community they serve. We need to have the positive interactions with kids and their parents. It also puts officers out in the public to fundraise.
J-R Why do you continue to do it?
Carter: There will always be someone who needs this. And from what I have seen is it is the officers who need this, not just the kids.
J-R: Do you have a favorite story about your time with Shop With a Cop?
Carter: I think the best story I have is from fundraising. I was on the street corner by McDonald’s, and in one of the cars I heard a voice saying “that’s my cop!” And it was one of the kids I had personally shopped with the previous Christmas. It made such a difference to him, and that is why we do what we do.
J-R: What do you need from people this year?
Carter: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our ability to fundraise for Shop With a Cop has been hindered. Any business or individual who is able to donate products (McDonald’s donated meals for all the kids) or money to help us provide gifts to as many as possible.
J-R: Who is eligible to benefit, and how can they apply?
Carter: Our list of kids comes from the Monticello School District or those I have heard about in surrounding communities (usually from a different law enforcement agency or church group). There is no application process. We ask the teachers who they know that need this.
J-R: Do you have anything else to add?
Carter: In 2014 we helped 19 kids; in 2015, 18; 2016, 28; 2017, 47; 2018, 45 and in 2019 helped 65 kids.
That’s a total of 222 kids so far. This year will depend on funds raised. Our 2020 goal is to be able to provide Christmas for 60 kids.
As of April 2019, Shop with a Cop is now 501(C)(3) tax exempt and all donations are tax deductible.
Donations (cash or check) can be brought to the Monticello Police station at 301 N. Hamilton St. during regular business hours. They can also be mailed to Shop With a Cop, c/o Monticello Police, 301 N. Hamilton St., Monticello, IL 61856. Additional information is available by calling the police station at 217-762-7727.