SENECA — Two local police departments are getting a head start on their annual program that helps bring holiday cheer to local families.
Both Seneca and Marseilles police departments have opened the application process for their Shop with a Cop events and are also seeking donations to help fund the program. In both departments, police personnel are paired with children to go to Ottawa Walmart and help the kids select gifts. They then wrap the presents together.
For Seneca residents, applications are now available at the police department, located at 340 N. Cash St., for the department’s fourth annual Shop with a Cop event set for Dec. 15. Applications are due Dec. 1. While in the past, the age range for eligible children was 5 to 10, this year, it’s opening for children ages 5 through 16.
Meglan said the department screens applications and is also in touch with area schools for children who likely would not have Christmas presents otherwise.
“A lot of them don’t have money and they don’t have a good Christmas at all,” he said.
Marseilles residents can now pick up applications for the department’s seventh annual Christmas Kids Shop with a Cop event, which will be held Dec. 8, by visiting the department at 209 Lincoln St.
Applications will be accepted through Nov. 29. Children in kindergarten through 8th grade who live within the city limits are eligible.
Lauri Trager, administrative assistant for Marseilles Police Department, said it’s heartwarming to make the calls to the applicants who’ve been selected.
“For most of these people, this is their entire Christmas,” she said. “For some people, it may be to add, but for most, it’s their Christmas.”
Meglan said the Seneca Police Department program is funded by donations from local individuals and businesses. Last year, donations allowed 14 children to make $300 in purchases apiece for themselves and their families, but that number depends on the amount of donations that come in.
Trager also said each year ranges based on donations. Last year, they were able to shop for 17 children. While some years the number of applicants exceeds donations, she said the department works to pair additional children with other resources.
Meglan said Shop with a Cop is an event that all parties enjoy, from the children to police department staff.
“They have fun, they have a good time,” Meglan said, noting the children.
“It’s a humbling, wonderful experience, and the day we take the kids, I don’t know who likes it more, the kids or the officers,” she said. “They’re (the children) all about riding to the store in a squad car — that’s really exciting to them.”
Meglan said each child is different in what they chose.
“Some of the kids have trouble with (picking items),” he said. “When we take them, they just keep looking and looking ... it’s like they get blank when they get (to shop) — they really want to look.”
He said his favorite part of the day is seeing the kids’ reactions.
“Just watching their faces and the different personalities you deal with,” he said.
Overall, Meglan said the reaction he gets from the families is often one of gratitude.
“They’re really appreciative,” he said.
In Seneca, donations may be dropped off or sent to the police department, at the dispatch center and City Hall. Anyone with questions can contact the Seneca Police Department at (815) 357-8726.
For those who wish to support the Marseilles event, donations may be mailed to the Marseilles Police Association, 209 Lincoln Street, Marseilles, IL, 61341. Anyone with questions can contact Marseilles Police Chief Jim Hovious or Trager at (815) 795-2131.