Monday, December 17, 2001

Cops shop with needy kids

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP — Josh Hinders pulled a remote-controlled Chrysler PT Cruiser model car from a plastic shopping bag Sunday and blurted, “See!”

        The 8-year-old was showing off his new toy to his 5-year-old sister, Faith, who also was clutching a bag full of goodies at the Meijer store on Fields Ertel Road.

        The youngsters had just finished an early Christmas shopping spree, compliments of Warren County Children's Services and Warren County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 103.

        The organizations teamed up to raise money to buy gifts and necessities at Meijer over the weekend for about 150 needy children.

        For these children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, Old St. Nick traded in his sleigh for a patrol car and shedded his bright red suit for a blue uniform and a badge.

        “I've got two kids of my own, and if they were in the same situation as a lot of these kids, I'd be glad someone was doing this to help my family out, too,” said Madeira police Officer Chris Zumbiel.

        He was among about 50 officers from his department and the Warren and Hamilton counties' sheriff's departments who volunteered to help children shop for gifts within a budget of about $100.

        Thus the name of the program: “Shop with a Cop.”

        The program traces its roots back more than a decade, when a handful of people raised money to buy gifts for Warren County families using the child-welfare agency's services, said spokeswoman Patti Jacobs.

        She said most of the children are from foster homes or are referred by guidance counselors, police officers and neighbors who have had to intervene in family matters.

        Josh's mother, Karla Rhodus, who has struggled to make ends meet this year, called the program a godsend.

        “I think it's just wonderful,” Ms. Rhodus said. “It has taken a lot of the stress off me” to buy gifts she can't afford.


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