PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For 100 years, the Sunshine Division has helped Portland families in need. One of their best known programs is often referred to as Shop With A Cop, but the fund behind it is the Izzy’s Kids Program.
In the 1950s, Isabell Hoyt was a Portlander known for her work in advertising, her stylish hats and her involvement with various causes.
She became a familiar face helping out the Sunshine Division, which began about 30 years before that.
“She always had her hands in something with kids. That was a given,” her son, George Hoyt, recently told KOIN 6 News. He said it was not a surprise when she was asked to join Sunshine’s board — and she quickly wanted to find a way to increase donations.
“As an activist, she said, ‘We gotta do something here. And here are all these high school kids. So, what can we do?'” George recalled. “She got to talking to the Sunshine Division and they decided we would have a drive.”
George was one of those kids at Franklin High School. He and his friends were part of many efforts to organize canned food drives for Sunshine, including during the holiday season.
In the late 1970s, the Hoyt family was still very involved. Isabell had an idea to further build the relationships between the Portland police officers who often delivered the food boxes and the families who received them.
Today it’s what many people call Shop With A Cop.
“This woman had the foresight to say, this is an organization that works closely with law enforcement. Law enforcement often interacts with children and families. Often times there’s poverty, often times, there’s need,” said current Executive Director Kyle Camberg.
The Izzy’s Kids Program continues to fund the event, pairing hundreds of kids with Portland police officers for a day of shopping for new school clothes, backpacks and more.
George, who until recently served on Sunshine’s board, attended many of the shopping events and said it always brought him joy.
“It’s just as much fun to watch the people who are there for the first time,” he said. “They’re along for the ride and their eyes are wide open.”
In addition to the back-to-school event, Izzy’s Kids is a year-round program. About 20 kids go with officers each month to shop.
George said his late mother would love to see how it’s grown to help even more kids over the years and build rapport with the officers.
“That’s the purpose of it, for them to be in a different light,” he said.
“The foresight the Hoyt family had to start this is pretty amazing,” Camberg said. “We have a lot of challenges in the world right now and if we had more ways to pair the community and law enforcement and governmental agencies, open the dialogue and have positive experiences, I think the world might be a little better place.”
Fred Meyer also contributes a lot to those shopping events, including the backpacks and heavily discounted items.
Since the pandemic, the Sunshine Division is facing 4 times the need they were. Help if you can.