A family tradition of giving
Photo by Sandra Stone
Huddled together in a rather chilly building at the Meade County Fairgrounds are members of the core group, including three generations of one family, which works hard each year to ensure a merry Christmas for Meade County children in need through the Angel Tree and Shop with Cops program. Pictured, front row, left to right: Zachary Brown, Tiffany McBenge and Jilly Hardesty. Middle row: Jeanie Basham, Sue Singleton, Tammy Hardesty and Patty Reesor. Back row: Bill Basham, Larry Singleton, Joey Hardesty and Donna Brown.
By SANDRA STONE
When Tammy Hardesty’s parents, Bill and Jeanie Basham, got her involved in the Fraternal Order of Police and its auxiliary about six years ago, she immediately became involved with the Shop with Cops program and hasn’t stopped since.
Then, four years ago, the Angel Tree program handled by Meade County Community Action got to be too much for the staff, and director Gina Moorman asked Hardesty if the FOPA would like to take it on. The answer was a resounding “Yes!”
Community Action accepts applications during the month of October, ensuring income requirements are met. Hardesty then receives the names of the families and gets to work.
She contacts businesses, organizations and individuals who have adopted families in the past and want to take part again. This year, there were 317 children to start with, and only 50 or 60 names were put on trees. “The rest were adopted before I ever got them on trees,” said Hardesty. A lot of people want to adopt families, she said, and they can’t be assured of that once the names are placed on the trees. Since that initial count, approximately 60 more children have been assured a merry Christmas.
The Angel Tree program has continued to grow. The need has gotten larger, but the generosity of our community has increased to meet that need. “We’ve had more people wanting to adopt families this year,” said Hardesty.
Toys for Tots are now providing a goodly portion of toys to Meade County again after several years of not doing so, and this donation helps Hardesty and her cohorts ensure each child has a joyful Christmas morning.
The other aspect of FOP and FOPA’s efforts to make Christmas merry for all Meade County children is Shop with Cops. “We take anywhere between 20 to 50 kids, according to how much money is raised,” said Hardesty. That money is raised through an annual roadblock as well as Bill Basham’s door-to-door solicitation of businesses and organizations. This year, the cops took 30 children shopping at Pamida and Cox’s, and then it was off to the Senior Citizens building for a pizza party. Both retail stores provide discounts for the shopping expedition, and Pamida served cookies and took complimentary photos of each child with Santa Claus.
Hardesty says her phone rarely stops ringing during November and December between preparing for the Shop with Cops day and handling the logistics of the Angel Tree program. She handles the calls and paperwork, and then her mother Jeanie Basham, sister Donna Brown, daughters Jill Hardesty and Tiffany McBenge, other members of the family, and fellow FOPA members Sue Singleton and Patty Reesor help when it comes to separating and organizing the gifts. “If it weren’t for them, I’d be a basket case by now,” said Hardesty. “It is a lot of work, but we all enjoy doing it.”
This year these two programs combined will have helped close to 380 children. “I enjoy doing it because I love to help the people, to know, when you sit down at Christmas, that you’ve helped the children of Meade County.”
Evidently, Hardesty isn’t alone in feeling this way. “The generosity has been tremendous,” she said. “Meade County has gone all out this year with gifts, donations and adopting angels. It’s the best year I’ve ever seen, and I’m so grateful for that.”