Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Shop with a Cop program helps Harvard families

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Harvard police dispatcher Mike Vest, left, and Harvard police officer Aaron Palmer review a list for Shop with a Cop held at Harvard Walmart Dec. 22. The program provided gifts and necessities to two Harvard families. HML photo by Jay Schulz

Harvard police officer Aaron Palmer had an idea. Every year, McHenry County Police Charities holds Shop with a Cop at two Walmart locations in the county, Johnsburg and Crystal Lake. This year, Harvard police took 15 children to Johnsburg Dec. 6 for the program. Palmer’s idea was for the program to be held in Harvard next year. He met with Harvard Police Chief Mark Krause, who gave Palmer the go-ahead, and, from there, a Christmas miracle happened.

Palmer met with Harvard Walmart General Manager Jonathan Bradley, who was very enthusiastic about the program. However, he wanted to sponsor the program this year and offered $300. Quickly, the Chief of Police Association and the McHenry County Sheriff’s Police each donated $250 and Northwest Rescue donated $800. Walmart’s Pepsi distributor donated $250, and Walmart employees donated $124. Krause was handed $16 from a private citizen. Within two weeks, the Harvard Police Department had $2,000.

Two families in need were identified by social service providers in Harvard, and a date was set. On Dec. 22, the families went shopping with the assistance of Harvard police officers and members of Northwest Rescue.

Each child was allowed to spend $150, and the remaining money was divided between the families to purchase necessities. “All $2,000 was gone,” Palmer said. “We went right down to the last dollar. It was great. … The little girl Mike [Vest] and I worked with couldn’t have been more excited. She had a blast. It was fantastic.

“I think it really alleviated some stress for the parents. I think it helped out a great deal.”

“I think it’s absolutely great,” Krause said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts certainly displayed by officer Palmer to get the momentum behind this, but certainly the community as well chipped in. We had a lot of different sources provide funding, and Walmart opened their doors and were extremely accommodating. It was great.”

Palmer, who has worked in Harvard for six years, said he is excited to see what they can do next year.

“This year was small compared to what we are going to do next year,” Palmer said.

Krause said he would love to see Harvard become a permanent location going forward.

“I’ve been in contact with [McHenry County Police Charities board member] Aimee Knop to try and have the Harvard Walmart be another post that can be used for the county-wide Shop with a Cop Program,” Krause said. “It will be a great benefit to the town while, at the same time, help the officers out. Many of the officers live west of town, and we used to have to go all the way to McHenry. … Having it in town, while making it more accessible to the families and kids, also works out better for the officers.”

Knop said she was proud of what Harvard Police Department was able to accomplish.

“Officer Palmer did a great job with this,” Knop said. “Harvard has a great police chief that made sure this would happen for these families and their officers in their community.”