STURGIS — The holidays will be just a little brighter for area youth thanks to the efforts of law enforcement from Sturgis, Meade County, Summerset and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
The agencies are combining forces to offer the youth a chance to spend a day shopping, wrapping presents, decorating cookies, watching Christmas movies and more.
Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater said each year the Fraternal Order of Police gives $100 to departments to take youth Christmas shopping.
“Sturgis and Meade County have done that in year’s past,” VanDewater said.
Then, last year, Summerset went to local businesses, individuals and civic groups asking for donations so that they could give youth a little more money to buy gifts not only for themselves, but for family members also.
Sturgis did the same and partnered with Summerset for a fun day out for the youth. Hills View Evangelical Free Church, in the Piedmont Valley, served as host for the youth event.
Officers from those two agencies, along with the Meade County Sheriff’s Department and Highway Patrol, will again sponsor the event Saturday and are able to help 57 youth this year.
Sturgis Police School Resource Officer Benny Page worked with the Sturgis Police Athletic League to get donations from local businesses to sponsor this year’s chosen students.
Page said he was overwhelmed by the response. He had hoped to raise $3,000 this year. What came in was $5,875 — nearly enough for two years of the Cops & Kids Christmas event.
They will use $3,000 and put the remaining in the bank for next year, Page said.
The youth will be shopping at Target in Rapid City. The retail giant also has donated gift cards to the program. The youth will gather at Hills View church then take a bus to the store. Harlow’s Bus Service has donated their services to ferry the youth.
Lunch is also being donated.
“We couldn’t do this without the amazing support of all these businesses. Not only did they donate, but they donated big time,” VanDewater said.
Summerset also received donations from area businesses and from grants.
Summerset Police School Resource Officer Brandy Palmer said the program helps those who many not have much of a Christmas at all.
“It means a lot to these kiddos. You can see it in their eyes. They are very appreciative,” she said.
The students are thankful not so much that they have gifts, but that they have gifts to give to family at Christmas, Palmer said.
Each student will get $125 to shop. The first $75 can be spent on themselves whether it is school clothes, boots, coats or whatever they need. The remaining $50 can be spent on presents for their family.
The youth range from kindergarteners to eighth graders from Sturgis Elementary and Middle schools as well as Piedmont Valley Elementary and Stagebarn Middle School.
“These are kids we have dealt with throughout the year and have identified as in need. We also work with school counselors and school staff to get names,” Page said.
The event is a moving experience for many of the students, Page said.
“There were a couple kids I remember from last year who were in tears. It really does mean a lot to the kids and the families. It takes some of the stress away from a family that may already be struggling,” he said.
Donations in Sturgis came from McDonalds, First National Bank
Kinkade Crematory, First Interstate Bank, Tom’s T’s, Paha Sapa Ladies VFW Auxiliary, Independent Cycle, Werlinger Auto Body, The Moving Guys, Indian Motorcycle and Liberty Chevrolet.
Those who will be helping with the event on Saturday include several officers and their wives, city of Sturgis staff, city of Summerset staff, along with Meade School District staff and students.
“It really is everybody coming together to make this happen,” Page said. “I love this. It brings back my faith in things. It makes you happy seeing these kids that may be struggling have a few hours where they aren’t worrying about anything and having a good time.”
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