Honor Credit Union donates $750 to Shop With A Hero program

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac Police and Fire Departments were surprised Monday with a $750 donation from Honor Credit Union for its annual Shop with a Hero program.  

Each year, the departments contact Dowagiac Union Schools to nominate students to participate in the program, which allows students – escorted by local police and firefighters – to purchase gifts and food for their families in December.

“It makes it special for me just to be able to give,” said HCU Dowagiac Branch Manager Linda Tyria. “It’s all about the giving and the helping. That’s the gift, it gives back. It just feels good to give back.”

Dowagiac Public Safety Department Administrative Assistant Michell Outlaw meets with each nominated family to go over the “needs” and the “wants.” 

“Do they have a winter coat? Do they have hats? Do they have gloves? Do they have boots? What is the biggest need for them? We make sure that’s supplied and that way it’s not taken out of their shopping money on Saturday.”

The program’s funding campaign begins annually at the Dowagiac Summer Festival where police officers and firefighters sit in the “Dunk Tank”. Later in the year there is No-Shave November, where, for $25 each, officers and firefighters challenge each other to see who can grow the best beard or mustache. 

Shop with a Hero starts the day with breakfast at the Firehouse. The children then board a Coach Bus and receive a lights and siren escort through the City and toward Niles Walmart, where police and firefighters go shopping with their students and have fun.

According to Outlaw, gifts for their mothers are always high on the priority list for the children.

“It’s touching every year because that’s the only gift they’re worried about,” Outlaw said. “‘What am I gonna get mom?’ So we try to make it a really special thing.”

After shopping, all parties head back to the Fire Department to wrap gifts, eat lunch and challenge each other in Minute to Win It games before families join us to pick up their child, gifts and food.

Outlaw looks forward to the event every year.

“I love seeing their excitement when they buy their special gift for mom,” she said. “Every year, the kids look forward to a nice gift for Mom. It could be perfume, it’s been winter hats. It could just be a nice sweatshirt but they’re really excited and that’s the one gift that they will definitely come back and really take pride in wrapping. I cry every year. It’s just nice to see that giving spirit.”