By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
On Saturday, Sept. 11, local residents can help some young people enjoy a good Christmas.
The Liberal Police Department, in conjunction with its “Shop With a Cop” program, is hosting a coed softball tournament at the Seventh Street Complex across from Blue Bonnet Park.
Coordinator Chris Head, a detective with the LPD, said this is the first time such a tournament has been put together for the program.
“We need 10 teams,” he said. “It’s a 10-team one-pitch tournament, which means you automatically start off with a full count. The games go by pretty fast, and they’re pretty fun.”
Four teams have already signed up for the tournament. Entry fee for the tournament is $150, and all of the money raised will go to Shop With a Cop. Head said the program started in Liberal in 2007.
“We work with the community,” he said. “Sometimes, we use the schools, and sometimes we use SRS to get names of kids who are underprivileged. We use the money that we get to take those kids Christmas shopping. Normally, it’s ones that are having a hard time making ends meet. Last year, we went through the intermediate and elementary schools. They gave us families who they thought would benefit from it – families who won’t, in other ways, have a good Christmas.”
Head said the program normally helps around 20 kids on an annual basis.
“That’s basically for manpower purposes with the police department, but we welcome the sheriff’s office and the highway patrol if they want to come over and help us out,” he said. “Our doors are open, and the more officers we get, the more money we get and the more kids we help.”
Head said growth would be welcome with Shop With a Cop, but with a lack of manpower in the LPD, the program is maxed out for now.
In addition to the softball tournament, Head said the police department also has its “Cops ’N’ Pizza” program.
“We go and serve pizza to the public,” he said. “We get some money from Pizza Hut.”
Other money raised for Shop With a Cop comes from asking business or individuals for donations.
“Whenever we start doing that, the word of mouth gets around, and people start calling and asking where they can donate,” Head said.
Head said LPD would like to see about $2,200 to $2,500 on a yearly basis for the program. He said Shop With a Cop takes place in about mid-December, and the day starts with officers cooking breakfast for the kids.
“We go out and buy breakfast materials like sausage and pancakes, juices, milk,” he said. “We’ll have them dropped off at Fellowship Baptist Church. We cook breakfast for them there. After we’re done eating breakfast, we take them to Wal-Mart. We normally do that generally a weekend before Christmas.”
While the police department helps out with other youth agencies in the community, Head said Shop With a Cop is currently the only youth-oriented project done directly through LPD. He did say, however, the department would like to do more for local children.
“I think it would be a great thing to do,” he said. “My feeling is that if you can reach a kid at a young age, you’re going to be able to help mold that kid for the future.”
Head said the Shop With a Cop program has a significant effect on the youth it serves.
“It’s amazing to see these kids,” he said. “We normally have one officer for one kid, sometimes one officer for two kids. The coolest part about it is whenever you get these kids shopping and they start talking about wanting to buy gifts for their mom or their dad, you can see how happy it makes them to pick something up for one of their family members. It’s heart warming to see that, and it makes you realize that you’re doing a good thing.”
Head said the children who participate in Shop With a Cop generally range from 2 years old to 4th grade.
“We have some families who have a couple of kids who are kindergarten age to third or fourth grade,” he said. “If they also have a 2- or 3-year-old, we’ll add them in there too.”
Deadline for registration for the coed softball tournament is Sept. 8. To register or for more information, contact Alison at 626-0161.
“We’ll have a concession stand open,” Head said. “Parks and Recreation’s going to take care of that. If people don’t want to play in the tournament, they can call to get information on how they can donate. It’s going to be fun. The weather should be nice.”