Cops N Kids helps Richland County children get school clothes
September 10, 2018
FOP Lodge 32 secretary and retired Mansfield police officer Frank Foti, left, holds up a sweatshirt for 12-year-old Cameron Butler of Mansfield at Walmart on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. The two were taking part in the 22nd annual Cops N Kids.(Photo: Emily Mills/News Journal)
Emily Mills, Mansfield News Journal
MANSFIELD - Roxann and Ricky Gibson are raising their four grandchildren and have been for years.
They wouldn't have it any other way, but they're grateful for the help they got Sunday at the 22nd annual Cops N Kids event at the Possum Run Road Walmart.
"We wouldn't see doing anything else," Roxann Gibson said. "Our daughter had these four kids. We decided it was our job, not somebody else."
The annual shopping event, made possible by a five-week telemarketing fundraiser planned by the local FOP Lodge 32, allows 100 to 125 children in kindergarten through 12th grade to pick out new school clothes.
Roxann Gibson was shopping with her grandson, 12-year-old Cameron Butler, with help from lodge secretary and retired Mansfield police officer Frank Foti.
The Gibsons, of Mansfield, have been raising Cameron, a sixth-grader at Malabar, since he was 2; his parents have been incarcerated most of his life.
"I was very humbled when I saw all the kids," Roxann Gibson said. "What they do for the kids is phenomenal because they came from really hard places."
The families taking part in Cops N Kids are in the county's Kinship program, with many raised by their grandparents, said Mike Bammann, FOP Lodge 32 president and a retired Mansfield police officer.
"It's really kind of near and dear to a lot of our hearts because I'm a grandparent, and a lot of us are grandparents, and here you have grandparents, great-grandparents, raising grandchildren," Bammann said. "So many of these grandparents struggle taking care of these kids, and I mean, it's a calling... And they deserve a break, and these kids deserve a break, and that's what we're giving them here today."
Bammann said many "Shop with a Cop" programs are done around Christmas, but he said the local FOP decided the beginning of the school year might be a better time.
"We found out here in Richland County, we better serve these children, these needy children, if we try to do it close to school for the school clothing issue," he said.
Letting children pick out their own clothes is important, Bammann said.
"I think it plays to just basic human dignity," Bammann said. "A lot of these kids - and you hear it from them - they'll pick out their own clothing, and they'll make comments that this is the first pair of shoes they've had that somebody didn't wear before them... It's not like you're giving them something, here it is, you take it and you leave. They actually get an opportunity to go out and shop and make choices."
Children were separated into three tiers - $100 for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade, $125 for kids in fifth through eighth grade and $150 for kids in ninth through 12th grade - and paired with one of the 50 to 60 volunteers, many lodge members or friends and family of members, representing law enforcement from across Richland County.
The organization is tax-exempt, so children were able to spend the full amount on the clothing they picked out. Bammann said with winter approaching, volunteers encouraged winter coats and boots, but there was still room for fun items, like Ohio State Buckeyes gear, a popular choice.
"I'm so glad you're not a Michigan fan," Richland County transport officer Chris Allen told 16-year-old Shelbie Colburn of Ontario as she held up an Ohio State Buckeyes shirt.
Allen said this is his first year helping with Cops N Kids.
"I just wanted to help out some kids because I raised three daughters myself... and it's just great for me to give back to my community," said Allen, who's worked for the county for 23 years.
(From left to right) Richland County Sheriff's Office transport officer Chris Allen, 16-year-old Shelbie Colburn of Ontario and Shelbie's grandmother, Amy Milum, consider an Ohio State Buckeyes shirt at Walmart on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. The three were taking part in the 22nd annual Cops N Kids. (Photo: Emily Mills/News Journal)
Grandmother Amy Milum of Ontario has been raising Shelbie for 10 years. This is their third year at Cops N Kids.
"It's a tremendous help," Milum said of the program.
Through the same five-week fundraiser, the FOP Lodge makes a donation to The New Store for its Christmas program.
Kinship navigator Rhonda Marsh, who's been involved with Cops N Kids since the beginning, said it helps Kinship families "tremendously."
"If it wasn't for them, they wouldn't have school clothing," she said. "If it wasn't for this program, the Kinship people would really struggle with getting clothing."
Walmart vision center manager Pamela Brooks, who's been involved with Cops N Kids since she started with the store 14 years ago, called the annual event "priceless."
"We had one one year, (a boy) had to run around and hug the cashier and thank her, and he said it was his first brand-new pair of shoes ever," she said. "All the cashiers get teary-eyed."
Store assistant manager Mary Smart said it comes down to one thing.
"It's the smile on their face, the excitement," said Smart, a 13-year employee. "They don't get new clothes. Now, they get new clothes."« Back to News