Troopers from the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack, plus their counterparts from other law enforcement agencies in Harford County, will take local children in need Christmas shopping Saturday, Dec. 9, for the troopers’ inaugural Shop with a Cop-Harford County event.
“The goal is to have everyone involved in the county,” MSP Cpl. Scott Sander, the event coordinator, said in a recent interview.
Maryland Troopers Association Lodge 96, which represents Harford troopers, is sponsoring the event, Sander said.
Law enforcement officers from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Bel Air Police Department, Havre de Grace Police Department, Maryland Transportation Authority Police and Maryland Natural Resources Police are scheduled to participate, according to Sander.
The Aberdeen Police Department will not participate because it is hosting its own Shop with a Cop event Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Aberdeen Walmart. The APD has been participating in such events with Aberdeen children for at least five years, according to police spokesperson Lt. Will Reiber.
Twenty-five children in first grade through sixth grade, who have been selected through the Harford County Department of Social Services, will participate in the state troopers’ event, which will be at the Bel Air Target store on Marketplace Drive.
Each child can spend $250 — $100 of that is reserved for winter clothing, and they can spend the remainder on Christmas gifts for themselves or a family member, Sander said.
The children and their families will meet with the officers at the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company’s main firehouse on South Hickory Avenue and then get a “parade” to Target in police cars.
They will shop together, then head back to the firehouse to wrap the presents, eat lunch and participate in activities for the children.
“Our goal is to provide as much as we can for the children for the short period of time we have them there,” Sander said in a follow-up interview Friday.
Troopers have raised about $7,000 to support Shop with a Cop via donations from businesses, which also donated supplies to wrap presents. Area restaurants, such as Mission BBQ in Perry Hall, Chik-fil-A, Philly Pretzel Factory in Bel Air and the Newberry Cafe & Bakery in Bel Air have pledged to donate food for the event.
Sander, a seven-year State Police veteran, knows of other Shop With a Cop events in other jurisdictions and participated in one in Baltimore County. He and other troopers come across families in the field that are in need, and he has seen children without proper winter clothing.
“I thought, what better way [to help] than for us to run a charity event and to do something to help the people that we deal with every day,” he said.
Sander said he presented the idea to the barrack command staff, who approved.
I think it bridges a gap between police and residents and shines a positive light,” he said.
Sander highlighted other ways in which the barrack is supporting the community during the Christmas season, such as its toy drive. The toy drive is in effect through Dec. 18, according to the Maryland State Police, Bel Air Barrack page on Facebook.
Sander said people can still contribute to Shop With a Cop; send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a donation, or checks can be brought to the barrack, which is at 1401 Belair Road.
Visit the Shop with a Cop-Harford County page on Facebook for more information.
Aberdeen Shop With a Cop
Aberdeen’s Shop With a Cop program has been happening for at least five years; 12 children are scheduled to participate this year, according to Reiber.
“It’s a great experience,” he said. “I think the police get as much, probably more, out of the experience than the kids do.”
Reiber said Police Chief Henry Trabert is “100 percent committed” to the event.
Bernard L. Tobin American Legion Post128 has contributed $200 per child “to fulfill their Christmas wishes,” Reiber said.
Walmart is donating turkeys to each child’s family for Christmas dinner, along with another turkey to the Legion post, which will be the site of a post-shopping “feast” prepared by the post’s ladies auxiliary, according to Reiber.
Organizers work with public schools in Aberdeen to select the children, and their families must be residents of the city, Reiber said.
He stressed that the police department, which hosts multiple Christmas community events in December, is just one part of Shop With a Cop. He said it is a collaboration of the police, community and local businesses.