Lee County Sheriff’s Office prepares for shopping with kids

Lee County Sheriff's Office Deputy Joseph Presley accepts a donation from Dixon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 540 for the Shopping with a Sheriff and K-9 programs.

DIXON — Around 50 Lee County children whose families need a bit of extra help affording presents this holiday season are set to go Shopping with the Sheriff next weekend.

Emergency personnel ranging from patrol deputies to corrections staff to dispatchers and beyond will accompany kids between the ages of 8 months and 18 years to shop at Walmart in Dixon, Lee County Deputy Kyle Ranken said. There are 57 kids expected to participate in the Dec. 9 event, he said.

“They have a blast,” Ranken said when asked what the kids have thought of the event in the past. “They love seeing us in uniform, getting stickers, being out with us. They always want to talk and keep it kind of interactive. It’s not just about them, which is kind of surprising to me.”

When he was a kid looking at toys, Ranken said, he wanted to pick them out, not talk about them.

Lee County’s Shopping with the Sheriff program began 14 years ago, when the Sheriff’s Office split their event from Dixon Police Department’s Shop with a Cop after four years, he explained.

“It’s a community outreach program to help families in need that aren’t able to provide as much to their children as they would like,” Ranken said of program.

Shopping with the Sheriff is hosted through the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 220, which is a 501(c)(8) nonprofit.

This year, the Sheriff’s Office and Dixon Police Department’s events are being held concurrently, Ranken said. The Dixon Police Department’s child shoppers are Dixon residents, he said.

There will be two shopping sessions – one in the morning and one in early afternoon, Ranken said. Participants will be provided breakfast or lunch, depending on their shopping time, he said.

On average, between $8,000 and $10,000 is spent shopping for the kids, Ranken said. Last year, more than $10,000 was spent on 46 shoppers.

The kids who get to shop come from a list put together by Goodfellows of Lee County, but also from referrals that are reported directly to the Sheriff’s Office, Ranken said.

“If somebody contacts us saying a child is in need, we can see about getting them on that list,” he said.

Being on the list is not a guarantee that a child will get to shop, as they try to rotate shoppers each year so as many kids as possible get opportunities to take part, Ranken said. The cutoff age to participate is 18, he said.

“We try to keep it to the younger crowd, but obviously, if there’s more spots available, we will go with older shoppers,” Ranken said.

How to support Shopping with the Sheriff

Donations to the Shopping with the Sheriff program can be made year-round, Ranken said.

The best way to do so is to contact the business office at 815-284-5217 during normal business hours. The business office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If calling outside business hours, use the non-emergency number to contact Dispatch, who will direct the call. The non-emergency number is 815-284-6631.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.