Columbia police, schools brighten holidays for others

Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards, back left, and Sgt. John Simon accept a donation from Columbia Middle School students, from left, Joe Heuman, Jacob O’Connor, Kelly Long, Sam Horner and Carter Nelson for the department’s Family Assistance Program. (Andrea Degenhart photo)

Every year since 2004, Columbia Police Department’s Family Assistance Program plays Santa Claus to a number of local families, brightening their holidays with the help of generous youth in the community.

Tom Detmer’s Columbia High School work-based experience class raised $450, and Columbia Middle School students raised nearly $1,500 along with 250 toys.

“Because of your hard work, your commitment and dedication to this community, you’re going to make it a better Christmas for a number of families here in town,” Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards told CMS students Friday when they presented their donation to the department.

Detmer said he got the idea to help the FAP when he was creating his lesson plans at the start of the school year.

“I knew it would be good for them to run a small, philanthropic operation, which is a version of a small business,” Detmer said. “They got to go through all the planning stages of running a small business.”

Detmer had previously talked to a business management teacher about raising money for less fortunate families and knew this would be a great route to take.

The five-student class began the fundraising process at the end of November, and Detmer presented the check to Edwards and Deputy Chief of Police Jerald Paul.

Pictured, from left, are members of Tom Detmer’s work-based management class at Columbia High School, Alex Hunsaker, Kaitlyn Anderson, Nicole Walla, Ally Juengling and Jessica Casey. (Robyn Dexter photo)

Edwards started the Family Assistance Program in 2004, his first year as chief, when he saw his officers responding to the same families throughout the year for domestic and other types of calls, which often end- ed in the arrest of a parent.

“I wanted to help foster a positive image of police in the community for these kids,” Edwards said. “And in the past couple years, the program just exploded.

“Now it’s not just homes that have legal problems; it’s homes that have financial problems.”

Throughout the year, Columbia schools, churches and civic organizations all throughout the year keep track of families they think could benefit from assistance during the holidays, and Edwards contacts them to see if they want to be included in the program.

All the money used is donated, and since most of the donations come from Columbia students, all the families helped by the FAP are in the school district.

When Christmas draws near, Edwards again contacts the families and finds out ages of family members, their clothing sizes and any specific needs they have, and uses the donations to make purchases. This year, the program has 12 participating families, plus toys donated through toy drives at the police department and middle school will allow CPD to provide about 20 additional families with treats for their youngest members.

Additionally, local businessman Joe Koppeis donates food to help make Christmas meals from the Market Place.

Detmer’s class raised money for their donation by selling CHS Eagles apparel as a fundraiser before the holidays, and they used their business curriculum to make the most of their philanthropic efforts.

“It took about four weeks total with the designing and ordering,” Detmer said. “It worked out really well and we were able to give a little bit of money to the less fortunate.”

This semester was the first time the class has done a fundraising operation like this, and Detmer said it’s something he plans to continue.

“I’d really like to make it an ongoing endeavor and morph into a sort of kiosk operation,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

And this is a proposition Edwards welcomes.

“A lot of people don’t believe there are people that have that much need in this area but there are,” he said.

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