What could be a cooler thought than a having plate of boiled shrimp on a hot day at Celebrate Neosho Saturday and knowing the proceeds of your scrumptious meal will help provide gifts for area children in need this December for Christmas?

What could be a cooler thought than a having plate of boiled shrimp on a hot day at Celebrate Neosho Saturday and knowing the proceeds of your scrumptious meal will help provide gifts for area children in need this December for Christmas?
The Neosho Fire Department and Neosho Police Department, previously shepherding different programs to provide Christmas gifts for area kids, have joined forces this year and will help fund their joint effort by providing a special meal for those attending Saturday’s festivities at the Hugh Robinson Memorial Airport.

“It’s a way for us to serve our citizens during this event and provide them with something other than just hamburgers or hot dogs, a common thing,” said police Lt. Mike Sharp. “All proceeds from that will go toward Shop With a Cop/Shop With a Hero, we decided to combine our programs this year, and from now on I guess.”

The two departments will serve a plate of fresh boiled shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes and a bottle of water. The price was still undetermined at press time.

Previously pining for monetary donations toward the end of the year to fund the former Shop With a Cop program, Sharp is hopeful that proceeds from Saturday’s meal will alleviate much of the solicitations for donations later.

“We don’t expect to take care of all of it, we’ll still be asking for donations, but obviously by us combing both the fire department’s program and our program together, maybe we’ll get some of the donations from their program to come over to our side. So hopefully we’ll collect more than we normally do.”

The fire department previously participated in the countywide Christmas For Kids program that solicited donations of toys and money with which volunteers used to shop for items for boys and girls. The police hosted Shop With a Cop, which raised monetary donations to allow kids to go on a shopping spree at Walmart while accompanied by a cop or other emergency services worker and volunteers.

The combined program is now labeled Shop With a Hero.

“We’re going to confine our efforts so that we can focus more on Neosho,” Sharp continued. “And not necessarily Newton County; Newton County obviously has their own programs that benefit people outside Neosho, so we want to focus primarily on Neosho. It will alleviate the fire department from having to store and shop for toys and stuff. You’ll actually meet the needs, I think, of the families a little bit easier this way, too. You can speak with the parents during the program and get some idea of what the needs of the kids are and not necessarily just the wants and desires. I think it will be more beneficial and hopefully successful.”

Shop With a Cop typically served between 100 and 115 Neosho Children each year, according to Sharp, but since Christmas For Kids serves all of Newton County fire department administrative assistant Mari Mallory is unsure of how many Neosho children that were served by that program will request help from the new combined Shop With a Hero.

“We’re hoping that since we are combining our efforts for the citizens of Neosho that we might bring in more money,” Mallory persuaded. “We’ve already talked to the guys in the department for our Fall Festival Chili Cookoff that we do – this year the proceeds instead of going to Children’s Miracle Network will go to Shop With a Hero; so that’s another fundraiser. If we can do these two fundraisers and then collect more money through grants and through the businesses in Neosho then I think we should be able to come up with a fair amount of money to where we can probably help everybody that applies.”

Christmas For Kids still continues throughout the county without participation from Neosho, so Mallory expects many of those benefactors to continue to support that program, so Shop With a Hero will concentrate its efforts within the city limits.

Being the first year for the departments working together and unsure of how much that might add to what was Shop With a Cop, Sharp said the fundraisers are a good first step for securing the needed dollars, and added that about $14,000 was spent by children in the program last year.

Children accepted into the program will be provided a set amount of funds and will be paired with a cop, fireman, deputy, EMT, and or volunteer to shop for what they want and need at Walmart on the second Saturday in December. Mallory finds that very beneficial not only for the kids in Shop With a Hero versus Christmas For Kids, but also for organizers.

“Being the person who receives most of the applications for the Christmas For Kids, they drop them off here for Neosho,” she explained. “Looking through the applications there’s been an increasingly greater need in our requests for clothing, shoes, necessary items. So, it’s too hard to shop for personal items like that, so I like the idea of letting them go to the store and pick out their own clothing – mix it up – they get the things that they need and then they can throw some toys in there too. It’s just easier to let them pick out their stuff.”

The parents are always invited and Sharp said officers and other Heroes are instructed to meet with the parents to find out the needs of their child before taking them to the toy isle in order to meet needs before desires.

“Obviously the kids wants some toys too, but, shoes on their feet, coat on their back and stuff like that is obviously more important than toys,” he assured.

Some kids even use some of their funds to buy a gift for Mom and Dad, and Mallory said their siblings are sometimes the beneficiary of their ability to spend as they wish.

Some would previously apply for both programs, and Sharp said combing forces will alleviate the tedious task of coordinating with Mallory to determine who has been accepted for which to ensure no one is served by both, but are served by one.

Applications for Shop With a Hero will be available by mid-October. Donations will be accepted anytime at either the Neosho Police Department or Neosho Fire Department.

In the meantime, on a hot, sunny Saturday, order up a plate of shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes and reflect on the cool thought of what your meal will do to help kids this December.