MIAMI COUNTY — A woman stopped to give Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58 President Billie Ray a hug and to say thank you for the lodge’s annual Christmas Outreach Program and Services (COPS) program at the Troy Meijer on Friday evening.
“Good luck and Merry Christmas!” said Ray, as the family walked out of the store with presents.
It’s those thank you’s and tokens of appreciation that make the program a success each year, Ray said. “When you see smiles on the people’s faces and when you see the kids see Santa when we deliver the gifts, they just really love it.”
Ray was joined by members of the Miami County Sheriff’s Office deputies and corrections officers, as well as Troy, Tipp City, Piqua, West Milton and Covington law enforcement, county juvenile and adult probation departments, and Miami County Victim Witness advocates to help select presents for the county’s children.
“We try to help as many as we can,” Ray said. “It’s been very positive. We get more and more donations, especially private donations. A hundred dollars here, a hundred dollars there. It’s all for the kids.”
The Miami County FOP Lodge 58 completed its Christmas list for those in need. This year, the lodge donated approximately $10,000 in gifts and meals for approximately 70 children and their families on Friday.
Ray shared how the program has touched hundreds of children in the community.
“These families have either lost their jobs because of medical reasons or have illnesses in the family,” Ray shared. “I feel that without the help of the community, Meijer, and the community donations, we wouldn’t be able to help these children and they wouldn’t have a Christmas — it’s all about the kids.”
The Christmas Outreach Program and Services has been an annual tradition for the lodge for more than a decade. The presents selected for the youngest children were wrapped at the lodge Friday evening and will be distributed throughout the county by Santa Claus next week.
“We get a lot of (referrals) from officers from different departments and they see people out on the road, so they make sure they tell them about the program as well,” Ray said. “If they see a needy family, they have them contact the FOP so we can reach out to them. They tell us a little bit of what’s going on in their lives and we go from there.”
The officers shopped at the Troy Meijer, which donated $3,000 in gift cards to the annual toy drive. The lodge also raised money for the program during its annual golf outing in July. Donations were also provided by the Farm Service Agency of Versailles, Wal-Mart, and community members, as well as donations from shoppers who walked by during the annual toy drive.
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