Smiles abound at Shop with a Sheriff event

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Lots of fun was had by volunteers and children at this year’s Shop with a Sheriff as they filled their carts at Walmart in London.

(Posted Dec. 13, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Imagine being a guest of honor in a caravan of sheriff’s cruisers with lights flashing, shopping for Christmas presents with a deputy, then hanging out afterwards, eating pizza.

Fifteen children from the Madison-Plains Local School District experienced exactly that the evening of Dec. 8 as they participated in “Shop with a Sheriff,” courtesy of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. They ranged in age from kindergarten to sixth grade.

“We love doing this to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Deputy Birdie Roberts, who has helped to coordinate Shop with a Sheriff the past 12 years. This year marks the third consecutive year the program has benefitted Madison-Plains youths.

Roberts starts by consulting school principals and secretaries to select children to participate. She gathers information about the children’s wants and needs from their parents or guardians, then sets a date for the shopping outing.

It was smiles all around at this year’s Shop with a Sheriff event, organized by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and sponsored by Coughlin Automotive and the Coughlin family.

This year, the children and deputies met at the Coughlin Community Center on the Madison County Fairgrounds. The guests of honor were transported by cruisers to Shoe Sensations in London where they picked out new shoes and socks. They then traveled to Walmart to pick out the fun stuff–toys, games, dolls, you name it. Some of the children picked out items not only for themselves, but for their siblings and/or parents, too. They did it all with the one-on-one help of deputies and members of the deputies’ families.

“Working at the Sheriff’s Office, I always say it’s a family thing. So, when we do something like this, we always include our own families,” Roberts said.

She and her fellow Shop with a Sheriff organizers also make a point of shopping at local stores and patronizing a local restaurant for the post-shopping dinner–this year, it was Cappy’s Pizza. Shoe Sensation provided a discount, making it possible for each child to go home with two pairs of shoes, instead of one. Walmart provided a discount, too, helping to stretch the program’s funding.

The first stop during this year’s Shop with a Sheriff was Shoe Sensations in London where volunteers and the store manager helped children pick out shoes.

Coughlin Automotive sponsors Shop with a Sheriff, covering all of the shopping and pizza party expenses. The Madison County Sheriff’s Association covers the cost of gift wrapping supplies. Tom Coughlin and his family are among the volunteers who shop with the children, wrap the gifts, and hang out with the kids at the pizza party.

The in-person facet of the event did not happen last year due to the pandemic, but the Sheriff’s Office still made Christmas joy happen.

“The deputies shopped for the gifts and dropped them off to the kids. We wanted to make sure COVID didn’t stop them from getting Christmas gifts,” Roberts said.

The Sheriff’s Office keeps up the annual tradition as a way to help families and children in the community and to make positive connections.

“We do this so kids know cops are not bad people. It’s a chance for them to maybe get a rapport with us. It’s a comfort thing. We want them to know that anytime they anything, they can feel comfortable coming to talk to us,” Roberts said.

Participants in Shop with a Sheriff gather for a big group photo outside Walmart in London.

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