Local cops play SantaPublished 9:41pm Monday, December 5, 2011
Buchanan police officers conducted a “raid” on the Niles Walmart Saturday. They were accompanied by 23 Buchanan school children as they took part in the 12th annual Shop with a Cop 2011.
Niles police were also on hand for the event with five children from the Niles school district.
“In Buchanan, it is the volunteers that make all the difference,” said Bill Marx, Buchanan police chief and city manager. “Each year, Stacey Cook and the women from American Legion Post 51 work hard to gather funds to supplement those given by Walmart for this event.”
“This year, we are sharing the experience with Buchanan’s Moose Lodge who hosted the gift wrapping and the breakfast afterward,” Cook said. “I have lots of help from the guys at the Legion, the Legion Riders, the Sons of the American Legion and the teen volunteers from the Michigan Gateway Foundation coordinated by Jane Lamb, who do the actual wrapping of the gifts.”
One of Santa’s elves that came to help shop for those on the Buchanan list who are not yet in school moonlights working for the school system. She said it was heartwarming to hear the children selected, expressing their excitement last week at school.
“Their classmates were also excited for them,” she said.
The excitement was great at Linda Burns-Philips’ house.
“We have taken in foster children for many years. We have kept families together. We have adopted some. It can be a challenge for the holidays, “ she said.
As the young shoppers made their way around the store, police officers guided them in spending their $100 budget and helped them make the tough choices of what to keep and what to put back when they overspent. Money not spent was given to the families in the form of a gift card.
Pam Avilles, office manager for the Buchanan police, has helped coordinate the effort since it began.
“One of the kids this year made their first purchase a $25 gift card for their mom,” she said.
Pam Duval, who has volunteered for several years, echoed Avilles praise for the generosity of the young shoppers.
“Every year, the children are careful to buy not only for themselves but for their siblings and parents, too. They appreciate the opportunity so much; they want to share the wealth. When we first started the amount allotted, the smaller children was only $50 and so volunteers often supplemented those gifts with their own money gladly. It is a wonderful event,” Duval said.
This year was a particularly big day for Desiree and Destiny Brewster. After the morning of shopping, the twins, 7 on Nov. 27, were headed home to where family and friends were gathering for their birthday party.
Rebecca Swain, 14, showed she already knows the value of a dollar. Shopping with six of her seven brothers and sisters, she was careful as she made her selections and helped her younger sister, Deiliah, do the same.
“Rebecca is such a good shopper. She showed her sister how to get the most socks for her money,” said Pat Huttenstine, Avilles’ sister, who helpede the Swain girls shop for their youngest brother and sister.
Kevin Kosten, who headed the Niles Police Department’s shopping team, praised Wal-Mart’s community representative, Mary Jane Davis, who helps fill the financial needs for Shop with a Cop and fills a stocking with goodies for each child every year.
Father of one of the Niles children chosen for this year’s event, Danny Baxter, has been out of work for three years. His wife has required a great deal of medical care this year. He was a little misty as he praised the Niles police for what they were making possible for his son, Dakotah.
“This has been a real blessing,” Stephanie DeWaters, a single working mom, whose three children were part of the Buchanan group, said.
For those wanting to contribute to Shop with a Cop in Buchanan, checks are accepted throughout the year. It is an opportunity for children to learn the happiness of giving to others, perhaps with a birthday donation in support of the program or other giving throughout the year when money is more readily available.
Checks can be made out to American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and mailed to American Legion Ralph Rumbaugh Post 51, 403 East Front St., Buchanan, MI 49107.