OXFORD — The Oxford Police Department held its annual Cops and Kids event at Left Field Tavern and Walmart on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Families chosen to participate met at Left Field Tavern for a meal donated by the owner Ted Wood. Following their meal, the families met up with officers from OPD, Hueston Woods, Oxford Township, and Miami University to buy gifts for Christmas.
Every child had $100 to spend and was accompanied by an officer. They were allowed to buy presents for themselves, or for their loved ones. They can buy candy, electronics, age appropriate toys, clothing, Airsoft or Nerf guns, CDs, DVDs, computer games, video games, or any other type of toys. They can buy household appliances and equipment only if it is a gift for someone else. The kids cannot buy fire arms, tobacco, alcohol, ammunition, knives, or anything else deemed inappropriate, according to officers.
Children are chosen based on recommendations from the Talawanda School District.
“We petition the school district to give us names of children who are in need. Also, a lot of these officers are going to these kids’ houses,” Lieutenant Lara Fening explained. “We see firsthand what the living conditions are, what the situation is, and if there would be a need. We’re able to identify that. Then other community members have contributed their input and said that they believe they have a family who might use it.”
Families are generally responsive to the idea, but there are always exceptions. “They might feel embarrassed, sometimes they just don’t know how to react, some of them are very proud and they don’t want to take what they would consider a ‘handout,’ but that’s not the way we feel,” Fening said. “We just want them to have a great Christmas and we love giving. There’s nothing better than giving, it’s better than receiving, so we enjoy it.”
“I like getting to walk around with kids, because I enjoy it as much as they do,” Sergeant Benjamin Hool, an organizer of the event, said. “Everybody is happy, it’s a good time. I like to try to do it at the end of the school year before Christmas break to make it a big send off.”
He added, since he’s been organizer, he has had less time to spend with the children, but that it is his favorite part of the event.
“I like it because I am so impressed with every family I’ve had since I’ve participated,” Fening said. “Even though they don’t have much, they are generous. They like to buy for other people. A lot of the times they’ll spend at least half of the money buying for others. I think that’s an important lesson everybody should be learning from these kids.
“They’re happy and it’s a way to change the perception that maybe they have had of law enforcement. It is a great community outreach, it makes us a little bit more personable to them. I like discussing the gifts with them and asking about their lives and why this gift would be good. You really do get to be on more of a friends basis when you do this,” she said.
“Even just spending a couple hours together, you really do get that good connection that we’re hoping for.”
“The last couple years we’ve started doing a dinner beforehand, that has been better because we’ll sit and we’ll eat with them and the families, and get to know them a little better,” Hool added. “They relax and talk a little more over food.”
Cops and Kids was made possible by a community grant provided by the Walmart Foundation. The grant was worth $2,000 and allowed OPD to spend $100 on each child participating. In total they had 14 families participate this year.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-638-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH