Reynoldsburg police officers were out in force at the local Walmart just before the holidays, helping 10 needy children "shop with a cop" to buy gifts for their families.
Shopping day was Dec. 18, but officer Michele Fulton, coordinator of the event, said she hopes the community will think ahead about helping next December.
"I would love to see the community get involved in this event," she said. "We will plan a little farther ahead for the next one.
"I would love to see others sponsor a child with any amount of money so we could provide for the families," she said. "We had many more families who could have used the help."
Fulton said the department provided two motor patrol units, two bike units and two SWAT units for the Heroes and Helpers "Shop with a Cop" program. The Truro Township and Violet Township fire departments also participated.
"Each student is paired with a hero," she said. "The hero has a $100 Walmart gift card which is tax-exempt and the hero and student set out through the store to find the perfect presents for their family."
She said the students' families were also given a $100 Walmart gift card to buy whatever they needed to "help their holiday be merrier."
After the shopping, Walmart provided dinner for all involved.
Fulton said the Reynoldsburg Division of Police has been participating in Shop with a Cop for more than a decade and has worked with Kmart, Meijer and Target in the past.
"This year, we were having difficulty finding a store to sponsor the program when Frank Curnutte, the manager of Walmart, came through for us," she said. "Walmart provided staff as helpers, who provided the dinner, gift wrap and all the extras."
She said Reynoldsburg DARE officers collaborated with Reynoldsburg City Schools' social workers, school psychologists and principals to find the families.
"A joint effort is in place to provide for families in need," she said.
Curnutte has asked the officers to come back to do the program next December, she said.
"We definitely want to do this again to build our relationship with Walmart," Fulton said.
She said the program has been valuable for all involved.
"The program reaches out and brings many people together for one cause," she said. "The students get to see who a hero really is. The public also gets to see first-responders in a different light.
"We wanted to show the community that their first-responders are a team and work very closely with each other," she said. "We have the same goal -- to make the community a safe place to live."