The Badge of Hope Ministries Shop With a Cop program is nearly tripling in its second year.
Last year, 10 area third- and fourth-grade students were treated to a $100 shopping spree at Wal-Mart with area law enforcement officials.
This year, 26 children have been chosen to participate in the program over the first two Saturdays in December.
After the first event, the nonprofit organization set a goal to double the number of children this year, said Union Police Officer and Chaplain Rick Neace, who founded Badge of Hope Ministries.
Then, Neace’s son, Sgt. Chris Neace with the Hermann Police Department, became involved, helping raise enough funds to sponsor six participants.
The events will be held over two Saturdays and will include six children from the Hermann area and 20 from the Union area.
Children are chosen by school counselors and a group of community members. They cannot be nominated by the public or signed up for the program because funds are limited, Neace noted.
Each child gets to shop with at least one officer.
“The officers have a blast. I think it blesses the officers just as much as it does the kids,” Neace said.
Thanking the Community
Neace said Badge of Hope was trying to think of a way to thank the community for helping law enforcement in the area and around the country.
“We decided to do it through our children,” he said, adding that the program also helps build relationships with police officers.
Badge of Hope and the police department have been working to reach out to youth and build positive relationships.
Last year, they kicked off an Open Doors program, where law enforcement visits grade schools to open doors and welcome students as they arrive to school.
This fall, they started a middle school and high school program, Connection Point, as well as a preschool program “Kookies With Kops” with the same goal of building relationships.
“We want them to see that we are human. We have a job to do, but we are human and we want to love,” he said. “Our children are very important to us.”
Badge of Hope raises funds for events such as Shop With a Cop throughout the year. Walmart and other businesses also help sponsor the event.
Donations are always welcome. To donate, people may visit BadgeOfHopeMinistries.com or mail checks to P.O. Box 113, Union, MO 63084.