Policeman’s Ball charity bash this weekend in Ashland

Published 10:07 am Thursday, November 18, 2010

By Tammie Hetzer-Womack

For The Tribune

ASHLAND, Ky. — This Saturday, forces will join up – police forces that is.

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On Nov. 20 Ashland Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 will band with a big-hearted community for a celebration of food, family and friendship hosting its 68th annual charitable Policeman’s Ball benefiting Shop-with-a-Cop in the Tri-State.

For 18 years now, Ashland area lawmen have given Christmas goodwill to almost 150 little ones through Shop-with-a-Cop, making spirits bright and helping Santa pull his sleigh – with a spattering of twinkling blue cruiser lights.

For many underprivileged tots, presents received at the morning shopping spree might be the only time Saint Nick visits this holiday.

They buy toys, clothes or sundries alongside a trooper, deputy or patrolman – who acts as Santa’s obliging elf for the day.

But, to bring this childhood peace and hope, law enforcement needs support and generosity at its Policeman’s Ball this weekend and by bequests.

As local economy falters with layoffs, cutbacks, and job losses, police officers watched the number of families who turn to Shop-with-a-Cop for yuletide assistance mount – while donations decreased.

Last year the Ashland lodge spent $24,231 at the wintertime bash, decking the halls by spending a budgeted $200 on each child.

Longtime Shop-with-a-Cop coordinator Tim Renfroe said selflessness, strong fundraising, and Policeman’s Ball attendance is imperative to ensure children continue to have a joy-filled holiday.

This year’s benevolent Shop-with-a-Cop program is Dec. 4 at downtown Ashland’s Wamart. Police is ready to lend many caring hands to the cause, Renfroe promised.

The Ashland city police sergeant and dad says he usually fights tears seeing a little face light up like a Christmas tree receiving the special gift he listed on a letter to the jolly guy in the red suit.

“I tell everyone they need to see it for themselves,” Renfroe paused. “No child should ever go without. We hope we can help make all their Christmas wishes come true.”

Lodge president Rick Riffe anticipates seeing police brothers, sisters, and civilians alike come out to contribute Saturday, united in fun and merrymaking at the dinner, dance and silent auction that starts at 7 p.m., with festivities ending Sunday at 1 a.m.

Tickets for non-FOP members are $100 per couple for the gala dinner and dance, while tickets for attending just the Ball are $50.

Award-winning executive chef Chris Ross and New York-trained pastry-cook Melissa Schell will present a top-rate dinner buffet and dessert course at the fundraiser held at the Bellefonte Country Club.

Music is provided by up-and-coming local performer, Jessica Baldridge, following the famed footsteps of top-name talent who played the event in past years like Billy Ray Cyrus, Larry Pancake, The Convertible Blondes, and Split Decision, Riffe remembered.

The Boyd County sheriff’s deputy said the holiday gathering has a resonant history.

“The Ashland Policeman’s Ball is a proud tradition dating back to the days of the Big Band swing era of the 1940’s and 50’s. This long-running event, like trends in music, has changed through the years, but still remains a highlight in the pre-holiday festivities of our region,” Riffe went on.

“The ball serves as a way to raise additional funds for our Shop-with-a-Cop program and allows law enforcement officers and the general public an avenue to socialize and enjoy a night of dinner and dancing.”

Boyd County Sheriff’s dept. Sgt. Jamie Reihs said the union of so many agencies of first responders for a collective goal of helping children is amazing.

“It doesn’t matter what color uniform you wear or what department you serve. We’re all there together, bonded to make sure these kids have a merry Christmas,” Reihs urged.

Carol Dillow assisted the Policeman’s Ball committee for 2 years. Said she is fulfilled seeing preparation and set-up culminate in an elegant and gratifying night for guests.

But, the real realization of her months of effort is watching children at Shop-with-a-Cop.

“When I see the smiles on their faces it makes me thankful to be able to play a part in this experience. This makes you realize how giving, especially to those in need, can make such a difference in someone’s life. All of this makes me very proud to be a member of the FOP.”

It takes time to coordinate the occasion, but Ashland Police Lt. Bill Bare knows his committee’s good deeds are sure to deliver Noel cheer to children in 2 weeks at the superstore’s Shop-with-a-Cop.

Most importantly, he says this positive interaction between police and youth is sure to make a lifelong impression.

Bare concedes this one-on-one time with youngsters and teens is often heartrending for officers, hearing poignant, firsthand stories of childhood hunger and poverty.

Sometimes a boy asks for the most basic items for Christmas – like a tube of toothpaste or a sack of diapers for a baby sister – instead of adolescent luxuries like videogames or a bike.

“They are why we do this. We know they may not find a Christmas gift under the tree Christmas morning, so we want to make this day unforgettable,” Bare stopped.

“It always touches a chord with me when I see how many folks in our community come out and pull together to support us at Policeman’s Ball. Without them, we couldn’t reach out to so many kids.”

To make a monetary donation to Shop-with-a-Cop, call Ashland FOP Lodge #3 at (606) 325-8494. Tickets for Policeman’s Ball are available at the door Saturday or by emailing williambare@gmail.com.