FULTON – The city of Oswego along with the city of Fulton recently partnered with the village of Phoenix Police Department and United Way of Greater Oswego County to treat marginalized children from the three communities with an opportunity to experience a holiday shopping event at Walmart in Granby. Children who were identified by school personnel were invited to shop alongside local community heroes that included the mayors of Phoenix, Fulton and Oswego, police officers, firefighters, school district personnel, dentists, Oswego County Sheriff Deputies, local members of the legal field, village trustees and members of city councils, to name a few.
The village of Phoenix Police Department launched their ‘Shop with a Cop’ program about five years ago under the direction of Phoenix Police Officer Brian Fortino. Since then, this day of caring expanded and grew to the spectacular program it is today. “This event brings a smile to my face each year! I am fortunate enough to have the full support of Chief Nerber to coordinate this event and modernize the name from ‘Shop with a Cop’ to ’Shop with a Hero’. I believe our communities are filled with many heroes who have a huge impact on our youth. The turnout of local heroes is amazing and the smiles on the kid’s faces is priceless!” said Officer Fortino.
Several community partners came together to support this year’s program. They include a grant provided by the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau and NYS Office of Children and Family Services, community grants from Walmart and Novelis, sponsorships from Pathfinder Bank, Fulton Savings Bank, Chick-fil-A, Hudson’s Dairy, Oswego Dunkin East, Stewart’s Shops-Oswego, Maria’s Family Restaurant, local community members, and in-kind support from Precision Signs of Oswego. The generosity of these businesses, agencies, and individuals helped allow 50 children to browse the aisles and pick out holiday gifts for family, friends, or themselves.
“The overwhelming support we received was instrumental in funding the project”, said Patrick Dewine, executive director of United Way of Oswego County. “Each sponsor’s kindness and holiday spirit transformed into an unforgettable day of fun for children who wouldn’t normally have the ability and empowerment to select and purchase gifts for the special people in their life.
Bringing these community partners together for a good cause is what makes Oswego County a great place to live and raise a family” added Dewine. “When we were approached by the city of Oswego to partner as the fiscal administrator, it seemed like a natural fit. Part of our work in the community includes building successful youth and we saw this event as a learning experience for them. Shop with a Hero provided a unique opportunity for these children to spend quality time with a community leader they may not typically be able to do, they shopped on a budget, and most important, learned the meaning of giving,” said Dewine.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said, “The Shop with a Hero event is a great concept that helps to lift the spirits of children in our community. Executive Director Patrick Dewine and United Way have been an excellent partner to the city of Oswego as we put this event together. I thank them for their continued support of this event, along with the many other worthwhile causes and events they support each and every year.”
Fulton Mayor Deana Michaels added, “It was great to see the excitement on the kids’ faces as we shopped together. This was a wonderful opportunity that United Way of Oswego County, the village of Phoenix Police Department and the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau offered.”
Each child was given a gift card to use while shopping with a “hero” and then treated to lunch, which was provided by Chick-fil-A. While eating, all their gifts were wrapped by employees of Walmart. Each child was also given holiday treats and a goody bag and visited with Santa.
“This program will put big smiles on the children’s faces at Christmas by giving them a chance to shop for their families and meet mentors from the community. We hope to carry this event on for many years,” said Jennifer Losurdo from the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau.