NORTH EAST — In a role reversal this holiday season, Comptroller Peter Franchot presented Cecil County Shop with a Cop an gift Tuesday afternoon — the 2017 William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award.
“It goes without saying that Shop with a Cop embodies the same attitude as [former governor Schaefer] … he believed small gestures to real people made a big difference. He often gave $5 bills to panhandlers in Baltimore because it helped the less fortunate,” Franchot said during an award presentation at North East Town Hall. “This incredible initiative has touched hundreds of lives in Cecil County by ensuring children can experience the magic of Christmas.”
In 2012, Maryland State Police Captain Jim Russell started Shop with a Cop so that children in need, between the ages of two and 12, would have a wrapped gift waiting for them under the tree on Christmas morning.
That first year, eight Maryland State Police troopers paired up with eight children to shop for gifts. This Saturday, 92 officers for various Maryland agencies will take 106 kids shopping at the North East Walmart.
The day will start with a formal precession of police vehicles where kids will ride with officers to the Walmart. Afterwards, cops and families will gather at the North East Fire Company station for a luncheon while “Santa’s helpers” wrap the gifts.
This year, participating families will also have food on the table on Christmas Day — the program will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner on the holiday.
In Franchot’s eyes, Shop with a Cop is a model program that rallies a small community through volunteering and fundraisers, without the state’s assistance. The program fundraised roughly $30,000 this year, and the town paid the $600 rental fee for the fire station banquet hall.
“This is something that the state should promote because in the place of the state government, you’re actually able to identify and help people very specifically,” he said. “The state is grateful to you for starting this.”
Former state delegate David Rudolph echoed Franchot’s thoughts on what he called “an unbelievable event” that unites Cecil County each year.
“If you drive through here Saturday morning, you’ll see hundreds of volunteers wrapping gifts and cooking meals … [officers] driving their cars down Main Street with their lights blinking,” Rudolph said. “[$30,000 raised] can only happen when people care. And in Cecil County, when it’s an important decision, they’re here. This is what our officers do in Cecil County, and that’s why I’m extremely proud of them.”
North East Mayor Robert McKnight and Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy also gave a few words, noting that the event does wonders for inspiring the county’s youth.
“The kids get a positive image of police officers and that’s incredibly important today,” McKnight said. “There’s nothing like what [will] happen Saturday.”
“We’re creating job opportunities, and now we’re trying to educate these people in taking their careers another notch up,” McCarthy said. “We are making a difference in Cecil County.”
Russell presented both Rudolph and McCarthy proclamations from
State Sen. Wayne Norman’s (R-Harford/Cecil) for their support and made a humble statement in gratitude.
“Thank you for believing in the program’s core values and in us,” Russell said. “We love Cecil County.”
Shop with a Cop will be held at the Walmart off Route 40 in North East on Dec. 16 at 9:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.shopwithacopcc.com.