December 04, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
For $150, a child in the Orion and Oxford communities can enjoy a happier Christmas for his or her family.
Every year in mid-December the Meijer's on Lapeer Rd. in Oxford teams up with local public service agencies to bring the Christmas spirit to children less fortunate. Police departments, fire departments and even EMS from the North East area of Oakland County donate their time, materials and fundraised revenues to support the Shop with a Hero event to be held this year on December 12.
Addison Township, Oxford Village and Township, Lake Orion Village, Orion Township, Brandon, Oakland County Sheriff's Department, special agents from the FBI Troy office, and soldiers of the 1775th Military Police Company from Pontiac, donate as much as they can to the program.
Come December 12, around 100 kids will each be given a $150 certificate to spend at Meijer's on M-24 in Oxford.
Each public safety agency identifies families and children that are needy throughout the year through schools and churches, and selects around 20 kids they have noticed who could use a little extra boost during the holidays. Around 100 kids are asked to be selected for the event.
"The economic storm in Michigan has impacted almost every family in one way or another. The ability as a community to come together and relieve some of that pressure for those hardest hit while also providing an opportunity for children to spend time with real American heroes is what makes this program so unique," Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh said in a statement.
Soldiers of the 1775th Military Police Company of Pontiac, as well as special agents from the FBI Troy office will also be taking the kids shopping.
Meijer's is also serving each child and their family a complete Christmas dinner donated by the 24th Street Sports Tavern in Oxford. Then, each selected child will circle the store selecting holiday gifts. Meijer's has been sponsoring the event since 2007.
"I think for public safety a lot of times, police fire and EMS, we are involved with families during really traumatic times of their life, so for us I think a lot of it is being involved with the community in this type of event where it's all positive," Lieutenant Dan Toth of the Orion Township Sheriff Department Substation said.
"It's not a traumatic scene so it's completely different. We can talk to the kids and the adults in a really relaxed environment. So that's really what I think public safety gets out of it. Where it's all good, and they understand that we are all in this together," he said.
The event takes weeks and weeks of planning and takes tremendous work on the part of public safety agencies as well as Meijer's personnel, said Lisa Hayduk, one of the store coordinators.
Each agency donates differently.
Donations can be made to the Lake Orion Police Association at 37 E. Flint St., Lake Orion, MI 48362, which will be in turn given to Meijer's for the gift certificates.
Fire departments have different 501c organizations to help gather funds. The Oakland County sheriff's office works through the Oakland County Deputy Sherriff's Association Children's Benevolent Fund in order to provide the charity.
The Oakland County Deputy Sherriff's Association just wrote a check for $1,200 to Meijer's for the Shop with a Hero event.
All the public safety officials who attend the event walk around and give a helping hand to the kids, who range in age from about 4 year olds to 15 year olds.
"A really cool thing that we see that happens with the kids, and it may be a little prodding from the parents, but when they're shopping it's not just for themselves," Toth said. "They are going down their list of siblings. A lot of times they want to buy something for their parents," he said.
"Thank you for helping us to provide Christmas in Orion, and to make sure this is the best time of the year for every child," Narsh said in a statement.