The “Shop with a Cop” program pairs elementary age children with an area law enforcement officer to go shopping for Christmas gifts for their immediate family and the child themselves.
A beautiful concept that is said to have started in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin by Curt Kindschuh.
Kindschuh said that the concept started in the summer of 1990. “I had actually been a volunteer Big Brother in 1981. And I was a freshman in college who volunteered for 15 years before moving on,” said Kindschuh. “I was and still am a big believer in their concept.”
Kindschuh said that in the summer of 1990, Dave Kirchman was the Executive Director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The two had gone to college together and were eating breakfast while brainstorming how Kindschuh, a Fond du Lac Sheriff’s Deputy, could better collaborate with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Kindschuh says that was when he threw out the concept of Shop with a Cop and from there it was born.
The initial goal was to have 20 kids and 20 officers participate and give each kid 20 dollars to buy gifts for family members and not for themselves.
While the primary goal was for the kid to spend 3 to 4 hours with an officer in order to have the experience with a positive role model. But even better was the fact that it was great for officers as well. “They often live in that law enforcement bubble. And they often think that it’s only good guys vs bad guys. So this was great for them,” said Kindschuh.
So with the blessings of Sherriff Gilmore, Kindschuh said that he approached 2 businesses to donate $200. Those were Silica hardware, now Silica and before they were in Fond du Lac. The other one was Wisconsin Bandag and they serviced and retread tires. Both said they were on board!
“From there we put out a memo to the Deputies and Police Officers and said that we were looking for 20 Officers that were looking to donate their time to an amazing project. From there we got 23 incredible volunteers and some of the kids had the luxury of shopping with 2 cops,” said Kindschuh.
Kindschuh went on to give credit to Steve Bellmer was involved in Officer Friendly at the time and made a wonderful difference!
Kindschuh said that the concept was really simple. You simply get the community to support your effort. You then get cops to donate their time and it’s a win win win. “Cops, community, and kids. It’s just a matter of pulling it all together,” said Kindschuh.
Kindschuh said, “That first day we all met all Shakey’s Pizza, in Fond du Lac, WI. All of the children were dropped off by their parents. 23 Cops and 21 kids all ate at Shakey’s. They even gave us a discount.” Although the Cops still put in the cost of their meals.
From there this awesome group of Cops and children then went to Forest Mall. Kindschuh added that, “This is back when Forest Mall was a vibrant place, before big box stores, etc.”
“I still remember the looks on people’s faces as we walked through the mall with all these cops. People asking what’s going on and when I told them they said it was really cool,” said Kindschuh.
“My biggest concern that first year was that we wouldn’t get 20 officers to participate. But I was incredibly surprised by the number of officers we got involved. I knew I could count on about 5 who are always looking to help. Then there are the ones that seem to hate their lives. However, these were the ones that showed up and created an amazing experience for these amazing kids,” said Kindschuh.
And now Its spread to so many places like Ashwaubenon, Fond du Lac, Milwaukee etc. At times, Fond du Lac has had over 150 officers and kids participate.
In the beginning, it was just the Sheriff’s Department, but now it has opened up to Police Officers, the District Attorney’s Office, Auxiliary and Community Service Officers, Probation and Parole etc. “That shows that no matter what, there is just something deep down in this project that is inspiring,” said Kindschuh.
The response afterwards was nothing but positive. “The next year we had numerous individuals and businesses reached out saying that they wanted to be a part of it. We didn’t solicit back then and yet we had donors,” said Kindschuh.
Kindschuh said that he coordinated Shop with a Cop for the first 3 years. While presently it is currently coordinated by Sheriff’s Deputy Flaherty for many years. Over the years, Flaherty has worked with local schools to identify at-risk children to participate in this amazing program and it had grown to include numerous Fond du Lac County Officers as well.
“It’s a cool feeling for me personally that nationally thousands of children and officers have benefited from what was started as a small idea to bless our children,” -Curt Kindschuh.
Thank you to all who have participated in such an amazing program over the years. Fond du Lac hosted Shop with a Cop on December 13th, 2018 from 5:30pm-7:30pm with incredible success!
Here’s to many more!