• Heather DiPrato

Golfing for a Great Cause: The 1st Annual Shop with a Cop Golf Outing will be held on Monday 9-13-21

Story by Heather DiPrato. Photos by Michele Freiling Photography.

What happens when a cop, a judge, and the owner of a successful auto repair business get together to help local families? The 1st Annual Shop with a Cop Golf Outing! Taking place on Monday, September 13, 2021, the goal of this new event is to raise funds and bring holiday joy to more local children in need, and the best part? You can make a difference by joining in the fun for this great cause!


Shop with a Cop (aka SWAC) is a program that pairs police officers with underprivileged youth during the holidays. The new golf outing was an idea from Newtown District Justice Michael Petrucci and Jeff Bethman of Lin Bethman & Sons Auto Center. Both men are enormous supporters of Shop with a Cop and wanted to do more to help create awareness and boost fundraising efforts. “Last year when I spoke with Jeff about sponsoring Shop with a Cop, he was immediately on board,” says Mick, who has been helping with the program since 2017. “I love supporting our local police departments and the community,” says Jeff, whose auto repair business on Washington Ave has a long history of supporting meaningful causes. “Anyone who knows me also knows how much I love golf, so using the sport to benefit Shop with a Cop seemed like a great way to get more people and more businesses involved.”

About the New Golf Event

The 1st Annual Shop with a Cop Golf Outing will be held at the Yardley Country Club, renowned for its beautifully maintained greens and challenging course. “As a golfer, my objective is to get better with every game,” says Jeff. “The YCC course is challenging because it’s narrow and fast which makes it especially fun for golf enthusiasts. But it is also a well-maintained course with a lot of areas of shade, so anyone that enjoys a round of golf will have a great day with great people. We will even have a dinner afterwards, so non-golfers can also come out to support this important cause!”


To take part in the event, local golfers and business sponsors will register in advance by visiting: https://bit.ly/SWACBucks. On the day of the event, the registration desk opens at 9:30 AM and golf will commence at 11 AM. Rates will include golf cart, two meals, fairway refreshments, and a tournament gift. “We are excited to work with local businesses that want to become event sponsors and hole sponsors,” says Jeff. “It’s such a great way to help the SWAC cause.” Many businesses have already signed on. “When Jeff told me about Shop with a Cop, our company was thrilled to take part,” says Brian Shadle of Service First HVAC. “We love giving back to the community and I know with everyone supporting it, this will be a great event!”


Melissa Robison is the Community Relations Officer for Middletown Township and has been managing the local Shop with a Cop activity for the past 5 years and is deeply involved in all things SWAC. “It was really important to me and for our department to find meaningful ways to give back to the community we work in,” says Melissa. “As the years went on, this event grew exponentially, and so did the need from local families. Our Shop with a Cop is slightly different from some others I have participated in and read about,” says Melissa. “We ask that the kids purchase gifts for family and friends as well as themselves. We want to help show them the joy that giving brings to others. The response to this has always been amazing and the kids love being able to pick something special for their loved ones!”


Melissa is also the lead for the golf event. To make it successful, both sponsors and golfers are needed. “There are several ways that people can get involved with the SWAC golf outing,” says Melissa. “First, sign up to golf! If golf isn’t your game, but you would like to be a sponsor, check out the outing brochure online to see what is available by visiting: https:// bit.ly/SWACBucks. People can also support SWAC all year round by visiting the foundation website at www.middletowncf.org.” Simply sharing information on social media is an enormous help to fundraise. Follow the Newtown Township and/or Middletown Township Police Department’s Facebook pages for news and updates.


“This is a local event, helping children right here in our community and we are calling on our “village” to help us do that,” says Melissa. “Anyone interested in being a sponsor should visit the website and get your reservation into the foundation. The deadline for this will be August 23rd, 2021. We would love to have as many local participants and sponsors as possible!”

How will the Golf Event Support Local Families?

“Last year, we were able to provide all SWAC families with entire holiday meals with a one-time grant, and the generosity of McCaffrey’s Food Market,” says Melissa. “I would absolutely love to be able to provide food again to these families and hope that this outing will make that a reality. We have children who show up to our event with wish lists that we want to see filled with toys and goodies for them and their families. But all too often, the wish lists read more like a grocery list, and that is heart breaking. Kids are all too willing to forgo any toys and treats for milk, bread, and cereal.”


Why is the local Shop with a Cop Activity Special?

Many of the kids that are served by SWAC have experienced hardship and tragedy. “We learn a lot about them and their families and provide encouragement and advice to dealing with difficult situations,” says Melissa. “As children, they should be blissfully unaware of the ugly things in life, yet we hear a lot of sad, upsetting, and tragic things. So, in addition to providing gifts and essentials, we are also there to build positive relationships. Through our actions and words, these children know that we care for them, and we will always be a resource for them. Any officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, or chief that participates in SWAC does so voluntarily, and because we love it!”


“Shop with a Cop is more than just a fundraiser,” says Mick. “It is a mission to provide local children in need a one-of-a-kind shopping experience with a local police officer during the holiday season. I think it’s extremely important for the youth of our community to understand police officers are people they can go to when they need help for a variety of issues. That's why it feels so good being a part of SWAC every year. And the golf event will allow us to help even more local families.”


As part of SWAC, children and parents are treated to a full breakfast, stockings and stocking stuffers, coats, crafts, pictures with Santa, and handmade blankets for every participant. “There are also times when we are able to give away clothing, winter accessories, frozen turkeys, and bags of other food items,” says Melissa. “Whatever we are blessed to receive will be used to create lasting memories for kids and families all around this area. We will be working on this from now until December to assist as many as possible!”


How has the local Shop with a Cop Program Evolved?

Since 2016, the annual event has grown significantly. In their first year, they were able to raise $4,000 and help about 35 local kids. Each year since, the participation from the community and the number of children and families helped has grown. “In 2020, the need during the holidays was unprecedented,” Melisa shares. “But the community rose to the occasion. I had hoped for $80,000 and we were able to smash that goal. In 2020 we had 526 kids and raised about $121,000!"


"Due to the pandemic many children were not able to physically join us at the event – so we became their personal shoppers and fulfilled their lists. Gifts were neatly wrapped and given out with the help of many volunteers.” “I believe that our Shop with a Cop event is so popular,” says Melissa, “because it is impossible not to see how passionate we are about helping families, and especially the children, have a joyful holiday season.” She continues, “SWAC happens only once a year, but we think about it, talk about it, and plan for it all year long!


There are so many generous people and businesses in the area that donate to causes that speak to them. This event does that for people and keeps donations local to help those neighbors in need. To very quickly see the impact of their donation helps to reinforce its importance. SWAC is the culminating event of a lot of hard work, but we are committed to keep this going for years to come.”

How is Shop with a Cop’s Fundraising Managed?

According to Melissa, “Middletown Community Foundation (MCF) is a local charity that has been an amazing partner to Shop with a Cop for all five years. As a registered 501 (c)(3) they are able to provide donation receipts to all the generous people and businesses that contribute to this event and any other that the MCF supports. They have made an amazingly positive impact in our communities with many different charitable efforts for the past 20 plus years. They hand out educational scholarships, pay for summer camp tuitions for those in need and those with disabilities, have provided the police department with four K9 officers, and so much more. This is a dedicated group of people who give so much of their time and talents to serving others and we are indebted to them for their unwavering support!


Anyone who donates to this cause can be assured that 100% of the money goes to these kids and families. We don’t spend a single dime on supplies, breakfast served at the event, or any extra stocking or personal care items that they are given! The MCF provides a restricted account to ensure that any donations to SWAC go exactly where they are intended.”


To learn more about Shop with a Cop, help the cause, or donate time as a volunteer, visit www.middletowncf.org. Sponsors can also e-mail their logos to SWACBucks@gmail.com.