Police, firefighters brighten holidays during Shop with a Hero

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 13, 2016

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MADISON HEIGHTS — A group of kids got to spend an evening with the people who protect them during a special holiday event arranged by the Madison Heights Goodfellows Dec. 1.

The Goodfellows, whose motto is “No child without a Christmas,” held its Shop with a Hero event at the Meijer store on 13 Mile Road, between John R and Dequindre roads. About 15 children were chosen based on economic need. Each received a $100 gift card provided by Meijer. Meijer has supported the annual event since 2005.

A local police officer or firefighter accompanies each child as they go around the store picking out gifts for themselves and others. Suffice it to say, handing $100 to a kid and telling them to buy whatever they want is a mind-blowing experience for them.

Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines has been an active participant in the program for about six or seven years now. This year, he escorted a 7-year-old girl.

“It was amazing,” Haines said. “The children we had there were absolutely amazing, as they have been every year.

“It really made for a bright spot in a dark day,” he added. “That was the same day (Dec. 1) that the officer killed at Wayne State University was put to rest. It allowed the officers that day to see the smiling faces of the children as we walked around the store with them and shopped for gifts that they may not ordinarily have been able to get.”

It’s not uncommon for the police officers and firefighters to pitch in a bit of extra money out of their own pockets to help pay for purchases over $100.

Haines also said he appreciates the event as a way to show kids, at a young age, how the police are good people who are there to protect them. This is especially critical now, with relations between the police and the public being strained across the country.

“Like I have said before, we are a team: the community we serve, and the officers who serve the community. We need to work together,” Haines said. “Working together makes the police more successful, and it allows us to have a safer community.”

In addition to participating in Shop with a Hero, the police  officers and firefighters help out with other Goodfellows activities. The Goodfellows raise money to buy gifts for sponsored families in need and also accept donated gifts. These gifts are then stored and wrapped at the Madison Heights Police Department before being distributed at the Madison Heights Fire Department.

The police also continue to accept donations of stuffed animals in the lobby of the MHPD, which they then put in the cars of patrol officers.

Then, should a patrol officer come across a kid this holiday season who is upset, the officer can brighten their day by giving them the stuffed animal.

“We’re looking for new stuffed animals — nothing used,” Haines said. “We’re happy to continue accepting them.”

Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett is a long-time volunteer with the Goodfellows. Long ago, the group helped his father’s family during their time of need. Ever since, the Corbett family has continued to pay it forward by volunteering with the Goodfellows themselves.

He said donations are down this year, for whatever reason, coming in around $3,990 as opposed to the usual $4,100-$4,400 range.

Nonetheless, the Goodfellows will be able to help 120 families this year, putting every penny toward the cause.

“As far as Shop with a Hero, I think that program is more important than ever in this day and age,” Corbett said in an email. “I think it’s important that all first responders, both police and fire, are spotlighted for how they give back to the community. Every day on their jobs, they risk themselves to keep all of us safe, and in their downtime they help young people, whose families are otherwise having difficult times, to feel special as they’re escorted on their Christmas shopping.

“I think anytime we can highlight the everyday heroism of first responders, it’s a positive thing for the families in our community,” Corbett said.