Apopka has a lot of events associated with the Christmas season. The Tree Lighting Ceremony at Kit Land Nelson Park, the Festival of Trees at City Hall and the Christmas Parade on Park Avenue come to mind as the most visible.
These longstanding traditions set the tone for the season, but where Apopka really shines is in giving. In the month of December, Apopka is 33-square-miles of heart.
And nothing embodies that heart more than what happened at 1700 South Orange Blossom Trail.
The Super Walmart became the safest spot in Apopka yesterday as dozens of APD officers converged in the Lawn and Garden section. But this was not about security or a call to service, or even a deal on a new grill.
The APD, along with other groups, were there to participate in an event that touches the heart of the community and gives kids and their families a chance to “Shop-With-A-Cop”.
For nearly twenty years, the APD has hosted this event, where Apopka police officers meet up with area youth and provide a $100 gift card to each child to purchase anything in the store they want. The department sponsored 60 children in 2016 and had hoped to provide for more this year.
“What we do every year is raise a lot of money, and we give that money out and allow these kids to go shopping,” said Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, who joined Commissioners Doug Bankson and Diane Velazquez from the City Council at the event. “I want to thank all the people who helped organize ‘Shop-With-A-Cop’.”
Due to the generosity of local sponsors, the APD raised enough money to provide 100 children from the community with a Merry Christmas. The kids and their families were taken shopping by members of the police department, city commission, and the citizen’s police academy alumni association.
Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Deborah Perez and President Robert Agrusa, along with other chamber members and the local business community, provided the funds to help the APD put this year’s fundraising goal over the top. On December 12th, the chamber presented a check for more than $3,800 to the APD, making the total donations collected this year enough to expand the program well over previous years.
“We were thankful to all of you who joined us at the Holiday Party on Tuesday evening,” said Agrusa. “It was a fantastic evening and we are happy to report the final amount raised by the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce for the City of Apopka Police Department’s “Shop with a Cop.”
Apopka Police Chief Michael McKinley was grateful for the community’s partnership in this event.
“We are humbled by the support given to the department from our community to support our Shop-with-a-Cop program,” said McKinley. “It’s not about the police department, it’s about the children who will have blessings over this holiday season.”
McKinley added that many times the children honored at Shop-with-a-Cop don’t just buy for themselves, but for family members, and often they even buy food and other necessities with their $100.
“It just reminds us of all the blessings we have. And these donations go directly back into our community to support our citizens.”
Children are recommended for participation in the program by police department members, school employees, social agencies and family shelters.
Officer Jason Wiggins, who heads the public outreach program for the department and has coordinated the agency’s efforts, noted, “This program is about police and the community working together; it’s a great program, and our goal is, and always has been, to give back to the community.”
All of this was made possible by the assistance of local sponsors, some of which are: The Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, The Apopka Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association, Rock Springs Storage, United Methodist Women, Advanced Door Solutions, Dan Newlin & Partners, GFWC Apopka Women’s Club, Rotary Club of Apopka, Victoria Plaza, Yeager Insurance Agency, Mark Boylan Injury Health & Wellness, and many, many others. The department funds its community programs year-round. Those who wish to donate may do so directly to the Apopka Police Department, 112 East 6th Street, Apopka, Florida 32703.
Editor’s Note: The Apopka Police Department Public Information Office contributed to this report.