Local emergency responders are teaming up to give low-income families a chance to celebrate the holiday season and for kids to have something to look forward to opening Christmas morning.

On Dec. 2, Local 5150 teamed up with United Way through the Angel Tree program to buy gifts for 20 kids in the Dickinson area for Christmas this year and on Thursday, local law agencies from several counties partnered for the 2020 Shop with a Cop event to help 31 children buy gifts for themselves and their families at Walmart.

This is the first year Local 5150 has participated in this type of event with United Way. The fairly new organization is a professional union of 11 Dickinson Fire Department personnel. But member and Dickinson firefighter Michael Roy noted that it’s something integral for this union to be a part of and he hopes it will spread some cheer in the community.

“I came up with the idea of wanting to do something for Christmas this year because I know a lot of people have been affected by (COVID-19) and what not,” Roy said. “... It just felt like a good time to get started doing something (because) our union’s still pretty young so we hadn’t done anything before.”

From newborns up to 18-year-olds, a few Local 5150 members gathered at Walmart to find the perfect item for each child on the Christmas give-away list and put a little more kindness into the world this season.

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“We just wanted the opportunity to make someone’s year a little better (and) help those that are not able to help themselves. We find it important to be able to give back to our community,” Roy added.

The West River Lodge #5 Fraternal Order of Police have participated in the Shop with a Cop event for several decades. Law enforcement agencies represented included the Dickinson Police Department, Stark County Sheriff’s Office, Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, Hettinger County Sheriff’s Office and Belfield Police Department.

“Giving back to the community is something that law enforcement officers want to do because we have tremendous support from them, especially in this instance where there’s children that we can assist (who don’t) have the means to buy gifts for their loved ones or themselves,” Lt. Mike Hanel said.

Through the Roughrider North Human Service Zone, law enforcement officers are given a list of names who are invited to shop with an officer, Hanel said, adding, this year, Dan Porter Motors also contributed to make this event possible. This year's event also attracted the largest attendance.

Stark County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Eldon Mehrer said that each year they can help these children out, it’s beyond rewarding.

“It’s an event that we’re happy to be involved with. Obviously, if we can make this time of the season more enjoyable for kids and families, we’re happy to participate in that,” Mehrer said. “... It helps us engage with families and the community and these young people involved in this in some very positive ways.”

Mehrer has participated in the Shop with a Cop event for several years, and it’s a fun way to brighten the air with some holiday joy.

“We understand there’s people that (at) this time of the year, they’re definitely in need of this type of assistance… What little kid doesn’t like (police officers). It seems at that age, they’re not really gated toward law enforcement like a lot of people are in this day in age and they really look up to law enforcement and they’re happy to have that engagement. We’re just happy to help the kids out,” Mehrer added.