While fireworks for Fourth of July are just hitting the skies, officials with the annual Shop with a Hero program are already planning for Christmas.
The Shop with a Hero program connects first responders with area youth to go holiday shopping together.
Lt. Jason Barnes, with the Fulton Police Department, is hoping to bring more attention and participation into the program.
About 30 students participated last year, he said, which is the biggest the program’s had in its about 12 years.
Every year, the program uses donated funds to give as many students as possible about $ 100 to go shopping.
SERVE and area public schools select students from low-income families to take part.
The program started after now-retired Sgt. Joe Schramm and Barnes traveled to Cole County to participate in the event. Schramm took the lead in developing one for Callaway County as well.
Now, first responders with 16 area agencies take part.
Participating organizations include Fulton PD and fire, Callaway County Sheriff’s Office, Holts Summit PD and fire, Auxvasse PD, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Callaway County paramedics, the Department of Corrections, Callaway County Joint Communications, Missouri National Guard, New Bloomfield Fire Department, North Callaway Fire Department, South Callaway Fire Department, Central Callaway Fire and the New Bloomfield Fire Department.
Barnes took it over in 2020 because he wanted to see the tradition continue.
His hope is that raising awareness of the program will encourage donations so more students can take part.
“I know it’s hard times, gas prices are skyrocketing,” Barnes said. “It’s a tradition that we enjoy a lot because we believe that every child needs Christmas. Although we can’t take every child, we try to take as many as we can. “
He said all donations are welcome. Over the years, donations have come from businesses and individuals a like.
Barnes said the students can use the money as they want, such as school supplies, clothing, toys, groceries or presents for others.
“Usually we give them $ 100 gift card and then we usually throw in an extra $ 10 for tax so they try to keep it in that (price range),” Barnes said. “But there has been Walmart staff or has been first responders, the kids have went over and wanted something they couldn’t have, they reached into their pocket and bought it for them (the kid). The joy on the kids’ face. There’s been kids that went and spent the whole amount of money on food , just to feed their family … So it’s tear jerking. “