The name may have changed but the purpose hasn’t: to give a merry Christmas to local children who might not otherwise have one.
Christmas For Kids In Fulton County is in full swing, and donations are being welcomed, Wauseon Police Chief Keith Torbet said. The police department, in collaboration with the county’s police and fire/EMS departments and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, is asking county residents and businesses to dip into their pockets and contribute to a good cause.
“There’s always going to be a need. I’d hate to see a kid go without a Christmas, even if it’s just one toy,” Torbet said.
At present, the event has raised enough funds to present 10 underprivileged children with $75 each to shop for Christmas. The goal by Dec. 16 is to raise at least $2,500 to $5,000 to provide $75 to $100 spending money for each of at least 25 children.
Notices have been sent to local businesses and to Wauseon Chamber of Commerce members. “We’re trying to get the children something for Christmas. If there’s a need, and we can raise for it, we’ll fill it,” Torbet said.
Swanton Police Chief Adam Berg said his department will take part in the event.
Fulton County Job and Family Services has provided a list of children for the program. But applications are available at the Wauseon police station at 230 Clinton St. for people to nominate youngsters within Fulton County. Torbet said there’s no guarantee every nominated child will be accepted, “but we’ll do our best to get them all in there.”
On Dec. 16, a local restaurant will provide breakfast to the children at 9 a.m. in the Wauseon fire hall. About 45 minutes later, they will be transported in police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances with flashing lights and sirens to Walmart, where they‘ll receive gift cards to buy themselves presents, aided by police officers and their parents.
This year is the first in several that such a event has been pursued. Several years ago, there was a similar event called Shop With A Cop spearheaded by Walmart, Job and Family Services, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. But a Findlay-area man trademarked the title and now charges organizations $200 to use it.
Torbet said the county changed the event’s name to Christmas for Kids in Fulton County to avoid that user fee and keep all the money for the children.
Wauseon Police Officer John Borcherdt is overseeing the event. “There are a lot of broken kids out there, and we just want to reach them,” he said.
As the department’s school resource officer, he pitched the idea in October. “It’s basically to bring underprivileged children in the community a wonderful Christmas,” he said. “In law enforcement, there’s so much we can do to make a difference, but right now I don’t think we’re doing enough.”
To that end, Torbet and officers in the police department have instituted “No Shave November,” during which participating officers donate $50 each to let their beards grow in support of the project. So far, through that initiative and other donations, the total raised is at least $750.
Borcherdt said the goal is to bring in enough money to provide each child with $100, “but if we have to lower it to $70 per kid to get more kids in the program, we’ll do that. The more money we raise, the more children we can get to go shopping.”
He said the program also gives the children the opportunity to build positive relationships with first responders.
Sheriff’s Office Major Matt Smithmyer said eight officers are participating in “No Shave November” and have donated accordingly.
“Any time that we can be involved in helping kids out in our community and they can see the good side of law enforcement and officers, we do,” he said. “It’s a chance for our officers to give back to the community. The community has given so much to us.”
Torbet said in similar events in years past the children selected for the shopping trip immediately displayed their selflessness.
“The first thing they did was buy something for their mother, father, sister or brother,” he said. “We made them get something for themselves, so there would be something for them under the tree.”
The chief said the experience of shopping with the children can get emotional.
“It’s very heartwarming,” he said. “It makes the job worthwhile, especially when you see them a couple of years later, and they say hi or come to you and give you a hug.”
Donations by check can be made out to the Wauseon Fireman’s Association, mailed or delivered to 230 Clinton St., Wauseon, Ohio 43567 Attn: Christmas For Kids In Fulton County. Write “Christmas For Kids In Fulton County” on the memo line of the check. Cash is also accepted.
For more information, contact Borcherdt at 419-335-3821.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.