In less than a week, supporters of the Miami County Christmas Outreach for Communities project (COPS) helped adults shop for children receiving gifts through the program, wrapped thousands of dollars in selected items and delivered them to recipients' homes.
The project kept Santa, members of the county Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58 and other volunteers on the move from Dec. 8's shopping and wrapping through the deliveries the evening of Dec. 13.
"It is by far my favorite part of a sometimes very difficult job," said Carmen Barhorst, director of the Miami County Victim Witness program, a division of the county prosecutor's office.
People the victim advocates work with during the year often are included on the list of program recipients — this year totaling 40 families and 85 children.
Also making referrals for the COPS project are the sheriff's office and Children's Services, among others, Barhorst said. COPS this year was able to spend $100 per child/per family. Each family also receives a full meal including their choice of turkey or ham, potatoes, vegetables, rolls and pies.
As family representatives arrived Dec. 8 to shop with program volunteers at the Troy Meijer, they were greeted by Billie Ray of the FOP Lodge, who signed each in.
"The county of Miami County and surrounding counties have supported us with this program," Ray said. The project has been held annually for more than 25 years.
COPS receives its money from donations, support from businesses such as Meijer, from fundraising including the July FOP golf outing and from the lodge in general, he said.
"The citizens of the county have giving hearts, and we appreciate it," Ray said.
Program volunteers include members of law enforcement, the prosecutor's office, probation office and the community.
Tipp City Police Chief Eric Burris along with officers Parrish Brazel and Corey Rismiller were among this year's shopping event volunteers.
"I think it is nice for people to see us in a more positive light, especially the little kids when they get their presents," Burris said. "That will leave an impression."
Jack Hoekstra, a Troy resident, has volunteered for COPS projects for several years, including helping with deliveries. "It is so rewarding to see their eyes light up," he said.