Last updated: August 23. 2013 12:55AM - 533 Views

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LIMA — Natalee Griffith walked through Meijer on Saturday with a sheriff’s deputy, a cart of clothes and toys, and a big smile.

“I got a [stuffed] bear and a [stuffed] pony,” the 9-year-old said. “I have new shoes. They are pink.”

Natalee was just as proud to talk about the shoes she bought her mother.

“I like shoes and I know mommy needs shoes,” she said.

Natalee was one of 83 children between the ages of 5 and 12 to participate in the annual “FOP Cops and Kids” Christmas program that purchases Christmas presents for needy families.

Police officers, sheriff deputies, correction officers and staff members from agencies throughout Allen County participate. All volunteered their time for the event. Money is raised through the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Lima through various fundraisers throughout the year. The lodge also receives donations from people and businesses, FOP President Mike Watkins said

Natalee’s mother, Amy Griffith, said this shows her daughter the true meaning of Christmas. She and her husband both work full-time jobs but barely make above minimum wage, making it hard to support their five children.

“It means a whole lot to us considering they get to go out and do what they typically can’t do any other time of year, get each other gifts,” she said.

Berlin Carroll, a restricted special deputy with the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, helped along with his wife, Shannon, a local schoolteacher.

“There is just a tremendous need out there and it’s an honor and a privilege to do what we do to meet that need,” Carroll said. “It’s a life-changing experience for me and I certainly wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Meijer store Manager Mark Campbell said this is just one more way the store can help people in the community. He and the staff at the store truly enjoy the event.

“Seeing the looks on the kids’ faces and seeing the joy, there’s nothing like that,” he said.

Nancy Gammon and her 6-year-old son, Cameron Gammon, shopped with Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and his wife, Christy Martin.

“I’m struggling. This really helps out,” Nancy Gammon said.

Chief Martin said this is his favorite event the whole year.

“As officers, we spend so much time dealing with the negatives in society,” he said. “This gives us a chance to give back.”

Cameron said he was happy to get his mother something for Christmas.

“I got her perfume and a Crock-Pot,” he said.

TJ’s Pizza in Lima provided pizza to feed the children, the officers and other volunteers as they wrapped presents at the FOP lodge hall. Silver Shears Haircutters teamed up with other barber shops to raise money to buy each child a bicycle and helmet, Watkins said.

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