Highland County’s fifth annual Shop with a Cop event will continue this year, though U.S. Route 62 and the streets of Hillsboro will be much more silent, Highland County Sherrif’s Deputy Daman Haught, who also serves as the executive director of Highland County Shop with a Cop and president of the Highland County Peace Officers Association (HCPOA), told The Times-Gazette.
Instead of taking the children out for Shop with a Cop as in past years, during the week of Dec. 14, officers will purchase gifts for the 18 children and their families nominated by staff from each of Highland County’s public schools. The officers will then wrap and deliver the gifts to the children and their families.
HCPOA will make contact with the kids and their families in the coming week or so to get their wish lists.
“Probably the biggest part that I will miss this year is seeing the children shop for their families,” Haught said. “We’ve had children in the past who have been very unselfish: they didn’t care if they had a gift or not. They were more excited about shopping for their siblings and their parents.”
Haught said officers who have participated in the program for the last few years are disappointed that the event will not be able to take place as it has in previous years.
“We have just as much excitement — maybe even more — just being able to take [the children] out and show them a good day,” Haught said. “That’s the bonding that we strive for, to project a positive image of law enforcement, especially these days.
“The guys and the gals are upset, but they understand it’s a safety issue.”
Haught said that some of the other Ohio law enforcement groups that hold similar events ultimately decided to cancel this year, but Haught and other HCPOA representatives felt that it was important to hold the event in some form.
“Obviously there’s a need. With the pandemic this year, a lot of people have been hurt with unemployment or a lot of other issues,” Haught said. “We knew that need was out there. We never actually even considered canceling altogether.”
Beginning in 2015, children nominated by their schools spent the day with Highland County officers. The day began with breakfast at the Old Y Restaurant, located south of Hillsboro, before entering Hillsboro for a day of Christmas shopping at the Walmart, movies at Star Cinemas, and good food at a local restaurant. In between stops, the children were able to enjoy lights and sirens from the passenger seats of police cruisers, fire trucks and emergency response vehicles, which made up a mile-long motorcade.
Originally, HCPOA hoped to hold the event with smaller groups, but ultimately decided it would be safest for officers to shop for the kids due to rising COVID-19 numbers.
The HCPOA and the Highland County Firefighters Association are hosting a food drive next week to benefit several local food pantries.
From 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 through Sunday, Dec. 13, local residents can make donations to the food drive by dropping non-perishable food items off at the Highland County Justice Center, located at 130 Homestead Ave. in Hillsboro.
The Highland County Peace Officers Association accepts donations for its “Shop with a Cop” event year-round, but those who would like to donate funds for this year’s event should send a check via mail by Monday, Dec. 14. Checks should be addressed to HCPOA, P.O. Box 1856, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133.
HCPOA is a non-profit organization, and donations are tax-deductible.
The organization is also requesting donations of wrapping paper, gift bags and boxes, and name tags, which can be dropped off at the Hillsboro Police Department or the Highland County Sheriff’s Office. Haught said HCPOA representatives are also willing to pick up donated items.
To contact a representative of HCPOA, visit the Highland County Peace Officers Association Facebook page.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.