Lt. Bob Bruneio escorts a wide-eyed young child down a toy aisle at last year's "Shop with a Lehigh Cop" event.
The Lehigh University Police Department will sponsor its fifth annual “Shop with a Lehigh Cop” program for the holiday season on Saturday, December 1, when 13 officers will accompany 26 children from 10 local families on a shopping excursion at Wal-Mart on Route 248 in Lower Nazareth Township.
“Shop with a Lehigh Cop” is a program that started at Lehigh in 2003, and has been repeated each year with increasing success, according to Lehigh University Police Chief Edward Shupp. The families participating in the program have been selected by local clergy and schools based on need.
“This is just another way for us to give back to the community,” says Shupp, who oversees a staff of 21 officers on the recently state-accredited police force. “Service and good relations with the members of the local community are essential for the great working relationship we continue to enjoy. We want local youth to see police officers as allies, not adversaries.”
The day begins with a “Breakfast with Santa” in Rathbone Hall for both parents and children. That is followed by several hours of shopping at Wal-Mart, where the children are escorted by the officers as they pick out presents for family members and have them gift-wrapped. The officers return the children to the Lehigh campus by 11:30 a.m.
The program has been so successful that it not only spawned similar programs through other local police forces, but has led to lasting relationships with the families that have been served through it, Shupp says.
“We find that we do have ongoing contacts with the families and the children, so this is a great way for us to build strong relationships within the local community,” he says.
In addition to Wal-Mart, whose employees donate assistance for gift-wrapping, local merchants that support the program include Sodexho Dining Services, Majestic Sportswear, G & L Screen Printing and the Windish Hall. Ahart’s Market also donates all the ingredients for a turkey dinner with all the fixings to each of the families.