EAST LIVERPOOL - A last-second decision by a local retailer to not offer the usual discount for the annual Cops and Kids program disappointed the city police department and its union.
Chief John Lane said this week that the normal 10 percent discount was applied by the Calcutta Walmart to purchases made for the first group of children during the annual campaign, but when the second and third groups came through the checkout, no discounts were offered.
"Evidently, the store manager made the decision to cancel the (discount). We asked for comment or some explanation from him, but he didn't provide an explanation to us, nor did he make himself available for a conversation," according to information provided by East Liverpool Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 29.
"I budgeted for that (discount). If they were going to do that, they should have told us in advance. It's not hard to get hold of us. We do this every year," Lane said.
The Cops and Kids program began more than a decade ago, providing warm outerwear, shoes, other clothing and toys for underprivileged children who might otherwise receive little for Christmas.
When it first began, Lane noted, $100 per child was budgeted, but this year, due to the overwhelming generosity of the community, the program was able to budget $200 per child, with $14,381 spent on winter coats, shoes, socks, underwear, clothing and toys for each.
"Walmart has graciously and voluntarily given our tax-exempt program this 10 percent discount every year since the (program) first began. It is fair to say we depend on this discount, or rather, the community - of which Walmart is a part - depends on it," Lane said.
He pointed out that losing the discount for the second two groups resulted in 20 percent less being available for the kids, and when asked how the FOP made up that loss, Lane said, "I always try to carry extra money for things like this that you can't predict."
Lane said, "Obviously, Walmart stores offer low prices, otherwise, why would so many families shop there? On the other side of that thought, however, is that many families have kids that go without things like a winter coat that fits them or a toy that might bring them some joy."
He continued, "Although we have no idea what prompted the abrupt cut-off of the discount, we do understand from reports available to the public that Walmart stores are expecting its United States retail sales to be 'flat' between now and the end of January 2014, the end of its fiscal year."
Despite the discount being pulled, Lane added Walmart to the list of those he commended for helping make the program a success again this year, saying 69 children between kindergarten and sixth grade benefited.
He praised those who gave cash donations ranging from a few dollars to as much as a couple thousand dollars, also commending the East Liverpool YMCA for donating free one-year memberships to all the participating children, the Dairy Queen for coupons for each child, the teachers and staff of the city school district and officials of Kids Connect 1 at Woodland Hills for helping find children "who need help the most."
Lane also commended CARTS for providing a bus and driver, as well as the driver "for having the energy and patience to transport and sit with a bus full of excited kids as well as Keystone Printing, Coles Screen Printing, L&B Catering, Italo's Pizza and all those officers from the city, St. Clair and Midland police departments and their families who took the kids shopping.
"Every year, we so greatly appreciate the efforts and high spirits of not only our program's many volunteers but the Walmart employees who enthusiastically help the children on the sales floor and at the store registers," union officials and Lane said.
Matt Simcox, the manager at the local Walmart said he was not at liberty to discuss the issue and forwarded questions to the company's media relations department, which did not return a call for comment in time for this article.