Joe and John Luker of Elkhart, pictured here during Christmas 2019, are collecting stuffed toys for Bears for Cops this Saturday at two Dollar General locations in Anderson County. 

Children caught in domestic violence situations often face a bleak, uncertain future, but Elkhart residents Joe and John Luker want to help. They’re seeking donations of new stuffed animals at two Dollar General locations, 384 US 287 in Elkhart and 1803 Crockett Road in Palestine, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. 

Local law enforcement officers carry the stuffed animals in their trunks so they can give children something to hold onto when parents are injured, in danger, or in trouble.

This is the third year the Lukers are requesting donations and distributing the toys to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and the Palestine Police Department. 

Joe calls the cause Bears for Cops. In 2018 and 2019, he and his son John collected hundreds of stuffed animals at a stand in front of the Dollar General at 384 US 287 in Elkhart.

This year, the father-son duo are also requesting donations at the Dollar General at 1803 Crockett Road in Palestine. They will bring extra toys to the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties.

Joe told the Herald-Press that officers approach him throughout the year to thank him for collecting and donating the toys. 

Recently, a sheriff’s deputy told him he gave a pair of matching stuffed animals to two children whose parents died.

“I always like to hear the good stories that go out with them,” Joe said. I’ve even been pulled over twice and asked if I was going to be collecting the toys again this year.”

Joe said all children caught in situations of domestic violence appreciate receiving the toys, but they’re especially meaningful to children ages 6 to 10. He witnessed children in his own family benefitting from such donations in the past. 

“When my niece killed herself, that was a tragedy for her two kids,” he said. “It helps them when they get something to hold on to.”

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