Inspired by a presentation at an international police chiefs’ convention in 1992, the Shop With A Cop program was brought to Lower Bucks County.
District Judge Frank Peranteau, a former Bensalem officer and then-Bristol Borough police chief, started up the program in his town to help families in need close to 30 years ago. From there it grew and continues while spreading to other Bucks County towns and departments.
In early December, officers from Lower Southampton, Middletown, Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, and Upper Makefield gathered at the Target on West Lincoln Highway in Middletown to shop with 147 kids from the Council Rock and Neshaminy school districts. Each group of officers and kids from families dealing with challenges set out with a budget in hand to purchase items for the holiday.
Two weekends later, officers from Bristol Borough, Bristol Township, and Tullytown along with the deputies from the Bucks County Sheriff’s Office took 120 local kids shopping with a budget of $100 each at the Walmart at Levittown Town Center.
At both events, the kids spread out across the stores and shopped, often picking up gifts for their friends and family, officers said.
Looking out at the kids paired with officers, Peranteau said he was thrilled the event continues.
“These officers are volunteering their time here to shop during the busiest time of the year and help out families,” Peranteau said.
“Shop with a Cop is my favorite day to work. I think about it all year long and how it can be bigger and better than the year before. We get to serve and interact with people of our community in a completely different and very special way,” said Middletown Officer Melissa Robison.
Bristol Borough Sgt. Pete Faight said the event is fun for the cops and helps out families who are in need.
Newtown Township police Cpl. Paul Deppi told the Council Rock School Board last week that the event at Target lasted nearly 12 hours and each child was able to shop with an officer.
Robison said the Middletown event added assistance from Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, and Upper Makefield this year, while Sheriff Milt Warrell explained additional deputies volunteered at the Walmart Shop With A Cop event.
It was not uncommon for officers to put up their own funds to pay for items that may not have been covered by the shopping budget, Deppi said.
Both Shop With A Cop events would not be possible without donations from the community.
“Fundraising for Shop with a Cop is a year round effort. National Night Out proceeds all go to Shop With A Cop, but the bulk of the donations come from businesses and organizations. We would love to see more local businesses donate and participate,” Robison said.
For the Middletown event, Robison said members of the “Granny Dot – Keeping Kids Warm” Facebook group partnered up for Shop With A Cop and provided each of the kids with a handmade blanket, hat, and scarf.
Faight and Peranteau said the Bristol Loins Club is key in mounting the fundraising for the event each year. The sergeant added that Walmart also is a major partner for the event.
Donations have already started rolling in for next year, Deppi said.
Robison added that ideas from the public are always welcome and businesses are encouraged to contact her to partner up for next year.