Annual Shop with a Cop showing HNHS criminal justice students ‘community policing’ up close

Huntington North High School Criminal Justice class teacher Terry Stoffel (left) goes over a pile of donations with student Jozzy Helbert, as student Nick Johnson watches. The class has set a goal to raise $5,000 for the annual Shop with a Cop program.
Huntington North High School Criminal Justice class teacher Terry Stoffel (left) goes over a pile of donations with student Jozzy Helbert, as student Nick Johnson watches. The class has set a goal to raise $5,000 for the annual Shop with a Cop program. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

In Huntington North High School’s Criminal Justice class students are learning about “community policing” by putting their lessons into hands-on practice this Christmas season.

The juniors and seniors in Terry Stoffel’s class have been actively involved in raising funds for the annual Shop with a Cop, and will also help at the event, coming up on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Huntington Walmart store.

Last week the class had collected $2,865 in donations, with high expectations of reaching their goal of raising $5,000 to take more than 60 area children who are in need on a Christmas shopping spree with a law enforcement officer. Stoffel says it’s the first year his criminal justice class has raised money for the program, which seeks to create a positive and long-lasting bond between the children and local police officers.

“Last year (that class) actually went with the kids shopping and were involved in that part of it,” he says. “We wanted to expand it so they could be involved from the very beginning and make the program even bigger by raising money. And they were all about it.”

Answering “why” the class got involved could be construed a no-brainer. Just ask them.

“It’s more about creating a positive relationship between kids and police officers,” says Kodi Douglass, a senior in the class. “Maybe those kids had only seen their parents being arrested or have had a rather unpleasant experience with a police officer, so they’re going to see them as the enemy. But we want to make sure they see them as a friend, and they can trust police officers and that they bring something better into their lives, so we’re shaping our community. It’s community policing.”

“The kids don’t have a lot, so we’re helping them out and making them have a good Christmas and brightening their day,” adds junior student Jozzy Helbert.

Junior Katelyn Herford says she’s experienced in the past what it’s like to struggle during the holidays.

“I myself, my little brother did Shop with a Cop, so I know what it’s like to have hardly anything at Christmas, with next to no money and being almost broke,” she says.

To launch this year’s campaign, the students composed and mailed more than 100 letters to potential partners in the community and made personal calls to area businesses seeking donations. They largely found a positive response from those they contacted.

“I work at Burger King, so I went to Burger King,” Herford says.

“I mentioned to Terry that I would go to the game shop here in town, and I asked them and they said they were willing to help with Shop with a Cop,” adds senior student Coda Ford, “And I also went to a couple of different places that weren’t on the list and I asked and they all said they would help.”

Walmart has also donated $2,500 toward the event, in addition to what the Criminal Justice class has collected.

Stoffel says he expects the cops will have about $130 to spend on each child they take on the shopping trip through the store. The kids can spend the money solely on things they want and need, such as toys and clothing. But they often buy presents for other members of their family as well.

Brady Black, another junior in the class, says his sister went shopping with a cop one year and believes his classmates will be in for a unique experience when they team up with officers and the kids they’ll help at Walmart.

“They’ll be in for a good time, and make a lot of memories,” he says. “They’ll also be very emotional, probably.”

To donate to the Shop with a Cop program, drop off or mail checks to the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department, 332 E. State St., Huntington, IN 46750 or bring them to the Huntington Police Department, 450 Cherry St., also in Huntington. Checks are preferred over cash; make checks out to Walmart. Donations are tax-deductible. Thank-you letters as well as photos of the event will be sent to donors.