TERRE HAUTE —
Families lined the store like a string of Christmas lights early Sunday morning, waiting as police played the role of holiday gift-givers.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86 hosted its annual “Kids Shopping with Police” program inside Walmart on U.S. 41. Parents, grandparents and guardians of 206 children stood in a line to have their names checked off a list as officers escorted them through the store for a shopping cart full of gifts.
Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse said this year, each of the 206 children received $100 to spend in the store.
“I’ve been on the force 27 years and it’s been going on as long as I’ve been on,” he said of the tradition.
The FOP gets the children’s names from the Salvation Army and collects donated funds throughout the year for the project. At its inception, the program benefited 100 children, ebbing to 150 after a few years, and now more than 200. The organization’s ability to expand its list of children hinges on the community, he said.
“The main thing is, we couldn’t do this without community support,” Plasse said, crediting area citizens’ generosity. Police get to look good while shopping with the kids, but ultimately the program reflects well on the community as a whole, he said.
Vigo County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Haley stood in the cashier’s line with one of the families he assisted, pointing out the program allows children to get to know law enforcement in a positive, friendly setting.
“This is my first year,” he said. “It’s amazing to come out and help children, especially this time of year.”
The program alternates each year between the Walmarts on U.S. 41 and on Indiana 46. The southern store’s manager, Bill Balensiefer, said the company is happy to help with early morning activity which kicks off each year at 7 a.m., bringing cashiers and other associates to a store full of Christmas presents ready for purchase.
“We’re proud to partner with local law enforcement for the annual effort,” he said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.