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Shop with a Deputy faces fundraising hurdle

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GREENFIELD — Fundraising for this year’s Shop with a Deputy program has hit a snag.

Historically, the annual holiday program that provides Christmas presents to needy children has depended on donations from a bell-ringing campaign at local GasAmerica stores.

But when GasAmerica sold the company to Speedway earlier this year, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department lost an important fundraising partner.

Speedway has a designated children’s charity for which it raises money and does not allow outside fundraisers that might detract from those donations, Amy West, who coordinates Shop with a Deputy, learned this week.

“What (the regional manager) said was, ‘If we let you, we have to let everyone across the nation,’” West said.

Each December, deputies pair up with children from underprivileged families for a shopping spree at Wal-Mart. Each child receives $200 to spend on clothing and toys.

The department currently has about $2,000 in donations, enough to serve about one-fifth of the children it normally serves.

The program helped 43 children last year, and organizers had hoped to raise the number to 50 this year.

West said she hopes local businesses will come forward with offers to let deputies ring bells in front of their stories.

“I don’t want to have to decrease the number of kids or the money,” she said.

Seeing the officers when they are out ringing bells has always prompted the public to donate, Capt. Robert Campbell said.

“A great deal of people are generous,” he said. “We’ve had people drop in hundred-dollar bills.”

Last year, Maj. Brad Burkhart helped shop for an infant who was a cancer survivor. While the little girl had beaten the illness, all the associated medical bills had left her family in financial straits.

“They were renting a house, and they were struggling with the rent and trying to make ends meet, and then, with the expense of the cancer of the child, that’s fairly substantial,” he said. “… That’s what gives you the warm feeling, … because you know you’re truly helping somebody out that needs that help.”

The department is still accepting applications from families who need help. The only requirement is that the family is not being served by another agency and must live outside Greenfield city limits. Those who live within city limits will be referred to the Greenfield Police Department, which holds a similar holiday program, Cops 4 Kids.

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