Delaware, Sunbury and Powell police officers joined Delaware County Sheriff's Office deputies last weekend in a charitable tradition for the sheriff's department.
The 17th annual Shop with a Cop -- formerly Shop with the Sheriff -- took place Saturday, Dec. 7.
The event, which lets local children 14 years old and younger shop for needed clothes and toys with officers, had become so popular, it was expanded this year to include county police departments.
The program helped 185 children this year by giving each about $100 to shop at a local Meijer or Walmart store.
The three Meijer stores in Delaware County and Walmarts in Delaware and Lewis Center provided the venues.
Funds were donated by the stores, as well as the Delaware Moose Lodge 1167 and individual donors. Volunteers from eight area high schools and Ohio Wesleyan University volunteered to organize and help wrap presents at each location.
The children who participated in the festivities were referred to the sheriff's department by Job and Family Services, school counselors and People In Need.
The program helps to show the children another side of the sheriff's officet, said Tracy Whited, community relations officer.
"Many times, our deputies and our corrections officers see a lot of the negative and the bad in people," Whited said, "and a lot of children sometimes perceive law enforcement as negative, believe it or not.
"This is one opportunity for children and maybe their parents to see the genuine care and compassion that the deputies have for children," she said.
Whited said many children have had encounters with the law before, and the sheriff's department hopes to give them a positive experience with officers.
"If they've had a negative experience, this can help (children) understand that law-enforcement officers care about us," she said.
"Kids might not understand that they have a job to do. They might just think, 'They put my dad in jail,' or something."
While the 185 children participating this year equals one of the program's largest turnouts, plenty were turned away.
Whited said because of monetary restrictions, children participating in other charitable holiday programs had to be turned away; others who asked to participate too far after the deadline were directed to churches willing to help.
Regardless, Whited said the event is important in the community.
"Sadly, the reality, whether the economy is good or bad, (is) there's always families in need," she said.
"We kind of fill a hole in that a lot of people know about (People In Need's) Holiday Clearinghouse and the Salvation Army's program, but they fill up.
"When people get turned away from there, they can come here."