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Cops care with 'Shop with a Hero'

From left, a solider from the 1775 Pontiac Military Police Unit the child that bonded with him. Photo submitted (click for larger version)

From left, A solider from the 1775 Pontiac Military Police Unit the child that bonded with him. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
December 12, 2012 - The holidays are a time for giving and the Lake Orion Police Department is doing their part too.

On Dec. 13, the LOPD will gather with other emergency personnel, FBI and soldiers to give kids at the Oxford Meijer a shopping day they won't soon forget. The event, called Shop with a Hero, gives a Christmas to those who might not otherwise get one.

"Special agents from the Troy FBI office, soldiers from the 1775 unit military police unit from Pontiac, Orion Township Fire Department and we will be present," said LOPD Chief Jerry Narsh. "Collectively, the LOPD raised the money and we needed backup for the kids last year, when we took 100 shopping.

"These are all Orion area kids that are elementary school aged. So far this year, we've raised enough for at least 50 kids."

Meijer offers the program to different agencies around the Orion/Oxford area and supplies enough money for two children to each group - $150 per child. The store allows additional funds to be raised for more children.

The LOPD raises money and chooses elementary aged kids because Narsh believes younger children are impacted more heavily by a lack of Christmas.

The event pairs each child with a serviceman and the two go shopping and "bond." Once they're done, they come back to the front to meet up with the parents and have a meal. The family also gets a full Christmas meal from Meijer full of canned goods, breads and "everything else you need."

Narsh said that often, in lower income families, the decision must sometimes be made between paying bills, buying food and having a Christmas. In addition to the charitable work, it is beneficial for the kids to meet someone they might consider a hero.

"We're hoping that this program makes it so those families don't have to make the choice between eating, paying bills and a Christmas, but what's really cool is that they get meet a real American hero," said Narsh. "These people are willing to die for you and whether it's police, fire, FBI or soldiers, it's all the same. I remember one little boy who didn't have a dad and hereally bonded with this soldier, so much that he was crying because he didn't want the night to end. At the end of the night, the solider kneeled down and tore off his company patch and gave it to the boy."

As far as funds, Narsh didn't have to search too far in Orion to find generous donors. One donor, who wished to remain anonymous, began giving the first year the LOPD started in the program.

"This all started with a resident who was recovering from a terminal illness, which they gave him a two percent chance of recovering from, who told me he wanted the LOPD to find kids in need and gave me a couple thousand in cash," said Narsh.

"It was around that time, in 2008, when we discovered the Meijer event and it became the perfect mix. Since that year, every year, he walks in and says 'how much money do you need chief?' He hands me a check in the thousands. He tells me to call him if I run out or get more kids, and he, to me, it as close to St. Nick as we can get. When you have a guy walk in and he has a new lease on life, you watch priorities change."

It's not just "St. Nick" either. Narsh said he relies entirely on donations and was still able to raise $15,000 in 2011 with the help of other donors, including local contractor Larry Mullens who Narsh said was another generous donator. This year's tally was not finalized by the time of this article's publication, but he said it should accommodate about 50 kids currently signed up.

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