Niles officers share holiday cheer

Published 10:16 am Monday, December 13, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Fueled by pizza and cookies, 10 Berrien County youths made their way through the Niles Wal-Mart, with police officers in tow, as they searched the store for holiday gifts Saturday.
The Niles City Police Department held its sixth annual "Shop With a Cop" event, which was sponsored by the Niles Wal-Mart and several other local area businesses, as a way to help needy children have a happy holiday season.
Niles City Police neighborhood liaison officer Kevin Kosten, who coordinated the event this year and said the event gives local youths a chance to have a happy holiday when they might otherwise not.
Some of the children who took part came from families which have fallen on hard times, Kosten said.
One family involved saw the father's work hours cut back and have been forced to move out of their house.
In another family, the mother became critically ill and the children haven't seen her in a month, meanwhile the father of the family was forced to switch shifts in order to care for the children, Kosten said.
Before heading out to do some holiday shopping, the children gobbled up a pizza lunch from the Niles Pizza Hut and received gift stockings with assorted toys and candies from Wal-Mart.
The children also visited with Santa Claus and received a free 5 by 7 inch photograph of themselves with the big guy.
After filling their bellies and visiting with Santa, the children were ready to tackle some holiday shopping with the $100 gift cards provided by Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart community relations coordinator Mary Jane Davis said the event is one of her favorite events of the year because of the amount of joy it brings to the children.
In addition to sponsoring the event, Davis said the Wal-Mart store had donated $500 to both the Berrien County Juvenile and Trial courts earlier this week.
Kyle Gast, 13, of Watervilet and Niles City Police Officer Mike Osban combed the store, looking for video games and socks for Gast's family.
Afterwards, Gast was happy with his haul and said her had a fun time shopping with Osban.
Osban, who participated in his fourth "Shop With a Cop," said the time the officers spend with the children is time well spent.
After the kids and officers were done shopping, Davis rolled out shopping carts filled with food for the children's families.
The carts contained a frozen turkey, a gallon of milk, and various other items that should make a very festive holiday dinner for the families. Afterwards, Kosten said the "Shop With a Cop" program is simply a way for the police department and the community to help out some children in need.
Officers from the Niles Township Police Department, as well as deputies from the Berrien and Cass county sheriff's departments also too kids out shopping Saturday.
But Kosten said, the program is only as astrong as the community members which lend their support to the program. Kosten took time out to thank the sponsors of the event, He thanked Subway, Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union, Radio Shack, Pizza Hut, the workers of PACE International Local 6-0816, and Wal-Mart.
Kosten said the most important thing is to make sure the kids know there are people in the community who care for them.