NEW CUMBERLAND - Applications are available starting today for Hancock County's 20th annual Shop With a Cop program.
Sponsored by the Hancock County Deputy Sheriff's Association, the program has benefited more than 4,000 children living in the county since its inception.
Program co-founders Tom Tompos and Cliff Bebout, retired sergeants with the Hancock County Sheriff's Department, began the program to offset the number of requests for aid that the department received.
"The program has been successful because of the citizens of our area, who no matter how bad times have been, have always come through to help the children of our county," Tompos said.
The program begins with the interviewing process, which will take place this year from 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 12, Nov. 19, and Dec. 3 at the New Cumberland city building.
"After we determine that someone's eligible, we determine the amount of money that each family's permitted to spend," Tompos said. "We pay for a certain amount for each child depending on age, circumstances, and things of that sort."
The program will once again team up with Kmart in Weirton for the event, which will take place at 9 a.m. on Dec. 13.
"We've done our shopping at Kmart since we started," Tompos said.
The rules for the program are fairly strict; for instance, if a family has already applied to Toys for Tots, Catholic Charities, or another similar program for aid, the family will not be approved for the Shop With a Cop program.
"We don't allow people to double dip," Tompos said. "We work with the other organizations and we cross-index names to make sure that doesn't happen."
Any funds that remain after the event are saved to help families who lose a house in a fire or other such crises.
"We help people throughout the year for family emergencies when they occur," Tompos said.
The Shop With a Cop program has received donations from all over the Ohio Valley even though the program is dedicated solely to Hancock County children, Tompos said. There are several options available for those who wish to donate.
"We have collection cans that we're putting out throughout the county at various businesses," he said.
Donations may also be sent to Shop With a Cop, P.O. Box 2206, Weirton, zip code 26062.