For the 13th year in a row, area children in need will be getting a helping hand from local law enforcement as the annual Santa Cops event prepares to return to Fort Dodge.
Santa Cops -which will be held on Dec. 10 and 11 at Target, 2910 First Ave. S. - gives underprivileged children the chance to go shopping with a public safety official from Webster County.
Participating agencies include the Fort Dodge Police Department, Webster County Sheriff's Department, Iowa State Patrol, Webster County/Fort Dodge Reserves and officers from smaller police departments in the county.
Assistant Fort Dodge Police Chief Kevin Doty said the names of children who are selected for Santa Cops come from the local schools, which provide the organizers with lists of eligible students.
"We like to be somewhere in the area of 85 to 100 kids," Doty said. "It depends on how many names we get and how many donations we get."
Doty said it's not just children who live in Fort Dodge that are able to participate.
To donate to Santa Cops:
Fort Dodge Police Department
702 First Ave. S.
Fort Dodge, IA 50501
"We've expanded the children we take shopping over the last few years to include some students that go to schools outside of Fort Dodge," he said. "But they all live in Webster County."
To make sure every eligible kindergarten-through-sixth-grade student participates, Doty said organizers keep a database of those who have participated in the past.
"We like to open it up to more kids and give them the chance to participate as opposed to the same kids," he said.
Each child gets $100 that he or she can spend any way they want.
"Some have a list of things they want to buy for other people, and some will purchase boots and coats for themselves," Doty said. "And some will just purchase all toys."
The money comes from donations that members of the community can send to the Webster County Law Enforcement Center.
"Without the support of the people in Webster County, we couldn't do this," Doty said. "We are just moved every year by the donations that come in. There's just a lot of good people out there, and this shows it."
He added that Santa Cops benefits both the community and law enforcement.
"To me, it's the opportunity for law enforcement officers to interact with young children in the community in a totally different way," he said. "It's just a very moving event for the children and officers."