Special shopper Michael Lesner of Almont picks out a special color of lipstick for his mom with the help of Almont Police Officer Sara Colin. photo by Mike Mercier.
December 20, 2017TRI-CITY AREA — Taking a child Christmas shopping may not be the most heroic act performed by local police, firefighters and EMS personnel this year. But if you ask one of them, it just might be one of the more personally rewarding.
Last Tuesday evening, Dec. 12, representatives from about 30 Lapeer County police, fire and emergency agencies gathered at the Lapeer Meijer store for the 21st Annual "Shop with a Hero" program.
The volunteers escorted dozens of youngsters from disadvantaged families as they picked out Christmas gifts for their family members or themselves.
Each child was presented a $100 Meijer gift card to make their purchases, along with lunch and a special present from Santa Claus.
Some had the opportunity to ride in a fire truck, police car or emergency vehicle along with their local heroes.
Among those taking part in this year's event were Imlay City Police Chief Scott Pike, Officer Joe Deluca, Asst. Imlay City Fire Chief Andrew Kustowski and veteran firefighter Pat Benson.
Police officers and firefighters from Almont and Dryden also took time out of their busy days to participate in last Tuesday's event. Dryden firefighters included Darrell Schultz, Patrick Bennett, Michael Ogg, Mike Plotzke, Amy Barger and Hannah Munck. Almont Police officers Laura Mohr and Sara Colin also participated.
Imlay City Police Chief Scott Pike says the 'Shop with a Hero' program is a "blessing on many levels."
"First and foremost, it provides a Christmas for children from impoverished families that might otherwise have no Christmas to speak of," he says.
The program also affords police officers an opportunity to spend time with Lapeer County children and families in a fun-filled and non-intimidating environment, Pike adds.
"At a time when law enforcement officers are often vilified and criticized, it (Shop with a Hero) allows us to connect with children and families to show them we are no different from them," he says.
Pike acknowledged that the Lapeer County Association of Chiefs of Police donated $500 toward food baskets destined for struggling local families.
Kustowski, who has participated in previous Shop with a Hero activities as Imlay City's Firefighter of the Year, alluded to the program's shared rewards for all involved.
"Every year we search our communities to find children who could use some good old-fashioned Christmas cheer," Kustowski says. "We've come across some very special kids over the years. We're always impressed with their giving hearts."
Kustowski notes that many of the participating children tend to be more focused on getting gifts for their family members than for themselves.
"As adults, we can take a lesson from these kids about the real spirit of Christmas," he said. "Our firefighters look forward to this event every year and we take the responsibility very seriously.
"This event embodies the giving spirit each firefighter endeavors to provide in their community," Kustowski continued. "There is no greater joy than to see the smile on a child's face."
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.