By Brandi Makuski
Local law enforcement raked in some big bucks to help spread a little Christmas joy this year.
The Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Stevens Point and Plover came together in July for a special “Police Lights of Christmas” fundraiser at Pizza Ranch, 1300 Commerce Pl. in Plover’s Crossroads Commons.
In October, a second fundraising event, “Cops at Culver’s Day,” was held at Culver’s on Hwy. 10 East. Officers greeted customers and helped deliver food during both events, in exchange for a percentage of the sales each day and tips donated by the public.
Between the two fundraisers, local law enforcement raised $7,000 in cash. Sheriff Mike Lukas said that money was used to purchase gift cards that will be split between the three departments for distribution throughout the community.
An additional $1,500 in Visa gift cards also came in, Lukas said, that will be used for hotel stays for homeless people in the area, or folks in need of a place to stay with no other options.
“Or, if we’re out with families and we come across someone in need of assistance, or if someone has a broken-down car and they need some gas, we can help,” Lt. Dana Williams from SPPD said.
The bulk of the gift cards, in increments of $5, $10, and $25, were purchased for Walmart, McDonald’s, Kwik Trip, and Subway, via various Catholic school script programs across the state, including Pacelli Catholic Schools, Lukas said. Those cards will be used in part to help those in need that officers encounter during the holiday season.
“We’ll share the joy; with this many cards, there will be a lot of goodwill gestures,” Lukas said, adding traffic stops initiated by law enforcement could turn into a gift card presentation instead of a citation.
From the October fundraiser at Culver’s, law enforcement agencies across the state raised $71,500. For the July fundraiser at Pizza Ranch, $15,000 was raised, with Portage Co. law enforcement agencies bringing in the second-highest amount in the state.
The group also received several care bags containing personal hygiene supplies, socks, and mittens. Plover Assistant Police Chief Ryan Fox said officers will carry those in their squad cars and will distribute them as needed.