Lake County's original Shop with a Cop program received quite a financial boost this week.
Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko said an anonymous donor sent a $10,000 cashier's check to be used by the program. It was the largest one-time donation since former Chief Bruce Johnson and Round Lake Park Mayor Jean McCue helped create Shop with a Cop in 1996.
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Skeptical police vetted the gift before having the cash deposited into a Shop with a Cop bank account.
"We're all looking at it -- a split decision. Is it real?" Filenko said of the reaction when an envelope with the cashier's check was opened Wednesday.
Adding to the uncertainty was the fact the envelope was addressed to the police department, but received at Round Lake Park village hall, which is at a different location. And, the lettering on the outside appeared to have been generated from an old typewriter.
Inside, he found a $10,000 cashier's check with the following typewritten letter.
"TO WHOM: ENCLOSED FIND A DONATION TO YOUR 'SHOP WITH A COP', IF THIS IS TO LATE TO USE, PERHAPS YOU COULD HELP SOME ONE WITH THE TEACHERS, COATS, BOOTS, AND ETC." the letter stated.
The letter directed police to contact a specific employee at a Libertyville accounting firm to acknowledge receipt of the donation. After wishing a good holiday season to Round Lake Park police, the writer ended with "Sincerely, Anonymous."
Filenko said police took the cashier's check to the NorStates Bank branch in Round Lake, where the Shop with a Cop checking account was established. Given the cashier's check came from NorStates, Filenko said, the bank quickly determined it was legitimate and deposited the money into the Round Lake Park account.
Next, police had to deduce whether the accounting firm was legit before telling the employee there that the $10,000 had arrived.
"Before we contacted them, we researched them, too," Filenko said.
"Look, who sends us $10,000? We're a struggling little agency."
About 85 children from low-income families participated in the 17th consecutive Shop with a Cop program on Dec. 10.
They received everything from necessities, such as warm winter coats, to toys, thanks to private donations raised by Round Lake Park police.
While each child had $100 to spend with their new officer pals leading them around the Walmart in Round Lake Beach, the volunteers were told not to worry if the tab ran a little over. The cops had calculators to keep a running total as they assisted the children in the store.
Filenko said a little money is left in the Shop with a Cop account before fundraising begins anew.
He said the anonymous $10,000 donation will allow more children to be served by the program in 2013.
This year's children came from referrals by Round Lake Area Unit District 116 and local churches.