Shop with a Cop adapts to COVID restrictions, stay at home orders

Krista S. Kano
Kent Weeklies
Stow Police Department's annual Shop with a Cop is typically a huge event. This year's program is being scaled back in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid a countywide stay-at-home advisory, heightened COVID-19 restrictions and the cancellation of Summit County Shop with Cop, local police departments are adapting their programs to continue to bring holiday cheer to their communities. 

The stay-at-home advisory, issued by Summit County Public Health, is effective until Dec. 16, which is right around when many officers typically begin loading children into their cruisers to go Christmas shopping. Large pizza parties or visits with Santa often follow. 

"We always have a great time with it, but this year we'll have to modify. COVID has changed how we do things," Munroe Falls Police Chief Jerry Hughes said. 

Hughes said Munroe Falls is still planning some version of Shop wth a Cop, but details are not yet solidified. This year may involve giving pre-paid cards to families and allowing them to shop on their own, or delivering presents to doorsteps, as they did Thursday afternoon for the annual Thanksgiving basket delivery program, a collaboration with the Scissor Room salon. 

The Munroe Falls Police Department is selling $5 raffle tickets; five winners will each win a gift basket from local businesses in Munroe Falls, Stow and Cuyahoga Falls valued at $200. Tickets are available at the Munroe Falls Police Station.

Tallmadge Police Sgt. Jeremy McGee, who runs their Shop with a Cop, has already reached out to the schools to identify the student participants. The department is planning to hand out gift cards, but are not yet sure how the program will function, Chief Ronald Williams said. 

Stow Police is planning to deploy Operation Blue Santa, in lieu of Shop with a Cop, on Dec. 12.

For every $150 raised, the department will sponsor one child and will bring presents directly to their homes. The department hopes to sponsor 15 Stow children this year, Chief Jeff Film wrote in a Facebook post. 

Donations are accepted now through Dec. 7 at the Stow Police Department by cash or checks payable to “Stow FOP Lodge 82." 

Lt. Vince Yakopovich from the Macedonia Police Department said the department would not participate in Shop with a Cop "for safety reasons." Instead, the department is opting to sponsor families in need.

"We try to take care of as many kids as we can, but with the pandemic we want to keep people safe," Yakopovich said. "We will contact the schools and Emergency Assistance Center to see where the needs are."

Yakopovich said that as of now, he was unsure how many families the department will be able to sponsor. The number of children who participates in Shop with a Cop fluctuates year to year, with some years the department taking five or six children, and other years the department taking a dozen children shopping.

"Money comes from donations, a lot of which comes from the officers themselves," Yakopovich said. 

Chief David Hayes said the Sagamore Hills Police Department also will sponsor families instead of doing Shop with a Cop this year.

"We are working with the schools" to see who needs assistance this holiday season, Hayes said. He added the department had around $1,500 in donations. The department will give out gift cards to families. To make a donation, call the department at 330-467-0900.

Jody Roberts, the communications manager for the city of Hudson, said that several holiday events have been cancelled in Hudson this year, including Shop with a Cop.

"The organization that sponsors it decided to cancel it this year," Roberts said of Shop with a Cop. 

Capt. Todd Shafer of the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department said that while their department is still planning on doing Shop with a Cop, the event would be "a very scaled-down version."

"We have selected three families from Cuyahoga Falls that are in need of some assistance for the holidays," Shafer said. "We are gathering a shopping list from each family and will deliver it to the families in mid-December. We will have gifts for them along with some gift cards for grocery items."

Note: Reporters Phil Keren and April Helms contributed to this story.

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.