COPS project spreads cheer

Billie Ray (left) and Santa check the list of families participating in this year’s COPS program in Miami County. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Billie Ray (left) and Santa check the list of families participating in this year’s COPS program in Miami County. CONTRIBUTED

Members of Miami County law enforcement and supporters have joined efforts to spread Christmas cheer for 40 families through the Christmas Outreach Program Services, or COPS.

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A project of the Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58, the annual effort includes a shop with a cop activity in early December during which police and others help the year’s program families with shopping for children at the Troy Meijer.

The shopping is followed that evening by a wrapping party at the FOP building near Troy. A few days later, deliveries are made by teams that include police officers, victim witness advocates, probation officers and a Santa Claus, among others.

The teams make their way across the county during one evening delivering the gifts to homes in pre-arranged stops.

As volunteers gathered for the shopping Dec. 8, Billie Ray, lodge president, said 40 families and 85 children would benefit from this year’s program.

Ray signed in representatives of families who were teamed with volunteers and shopping carts. This year, close to $12,000 was being spent for COPS.

Helping with shopping for the first time was Eric Burris, Tipp City’s police chief.

“I think it is nice for people to see us in a more positive light,” he said.

Also on hand was Santa Claus who, before participating in the shopping, had to stop to greet children who spotted him arrive as they waited with their parents at the customer service desk.

His role, Santa said, was joining in the “spreading of Christmas cheer.”

Families for the program are identified several ways, said Carmen Barhorst, director of the county prosecutor’s office Victim Witness Program. Some are families that crime victim advocates have worked with while others are referred by the sheriff’s office and Children’s Services, she said.

In addition to the shopping, each family receives full meals with a turkey or ham, potatoes, vegetables, rolls and pies.

Barhorst said the victim witness staff participates in shopping, wrapping and deliveries in addition to raising funds by helping at the annual FOP golf outing

“The community of Miami County and surrounding counties has supported us with this program, “ Ray said, noting major donations from Meijer and a company out of Sidney.

The program also is supported by donations from citizens and the July golf outing held at Stillwater Golf Course near Versailles.

“I can’t say enough about the generosity shown by everyone who donates. The citizens of the county have giving hearts, and we appreciate it,” Ray said.

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