Wal-Mart, law enforcement gear up for Shop with a CopPublished 10:26am Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
For children, the figure of a police officer in their presence or in their home can be an intimidating and scary experience – especially if those children are being subjected to an unstable or unhealthy environment.
To those children, police officers are authoritative figures who come in and make arrests or take people away.
But around this time of year – one very special event opens the door to a new perspective for children on officers of the law.
Area law enforcement is gearing up for this year’s “Shop with a Cop,” where children are chosen and sponsored by local police departments and given the chance to go shopping for the holidays.
This year members of the Niles City Police Department, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and the Buchanan City Police Department will once again take part in the event.
“I was included in it last year when I came down to the south end of the county and I just remember all the kids smiling,” said Lt. Don Goulooze with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. “This year hasn’t been the greatest for a lot of people. If we can help out … that’s just great.”
The program targets families in need, and local school officials often choose children.
Those children are then either picked up by local law enforcement or are met by their local police at Wal-Mart in Niles on South 11th Street where they’re given the chance to do a little shopping for themselves.
Though it rarely turns out that way, according to Mary Jane Davis, community relations coordinator.
“It’s a wonderful program,” she said, “because it gives children a chance to see a different side of the police officer. It gives the kids the security that its OK to go to a police officer” if they ever need help.
Wal-Mart writes for $500 to each of the departments for the program; Davis said some departments also raise money through donations or fundraisers.
This year, donations are down.
“People aren’t donating like they normally do,” she said.
Still each department is armed with their grant money and children who take part in the program also receive stockings from Wal-Mart filled with candy, homemade cookies and even coupons provided by Subway.
Between the four departments, Davis estimated 60 children took part in the program last year.
Wal-Mart has been running Shop with a Cop for “at least eight years,” Davis said.
“It’s just part of our Christmas,” she continued. “And it’s really just tear-jerking because sometimes kids will just surprise you.”
While shopping with a cop, the kids are welcome to pick something out for themselves, but Davis said often that’s not the case – and kids take the opportunity to buy gifts for their family members.
She recalls one boy who was determined to buy his father new socks and a pair of new work boots and another who spent all of his allotted money on his mother.
“Usually the children that they choose usually don’t buy for themselves,” Davis said. “They seem to buy for others.”
Anyone who still wants to donate to Shop with a Cop can still do so by contacting the local police department or law enforcement agency.
Dates for this year’s Shop with a Cop are:
Niles City Police Department – Dec. 5
Cass County Sheriff’s Department – Dec. 12
Berrien County Sheriff’s Department – Dec. 19
Buchanan City Police Department – Dec. 19