The Salvation Army, North Branch Shopko and dozens of emergency workers answered the call Thursday, Aug. 14, to help ensure 30 area kids are prepared when they head back to school.
That call was the fifth annual Shop with a Cop program.
“We like to see the children go into the school year with a new set of clothes, new shoes and all other needs that they may have, besides school supplies,” said Capt. Keith Hoppe of the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office.
Hoppe was one of 30 first responders from the area who teamed up with a child to shop with an $80 allowance. He treated the entire event as a learning experience for his little shopping partner, Nick, who scurried around Shopko, looking for everything from slacks to shoes, while keeping a close eye on the total cost of everything that dropped into the cart.
“We have a little competition between all of us; the one who is closest to $80 gets a prize,” Hoppe noted.
It’s quite a sight as the more experienced “cop shoppers” seek out the sale racks to get as much as possible for their shopper, and other officers carefully eye the sizes of items to ensure shirts and pants fit for now and have a little room for growth.
The same scene played out at the Wal-Mart in Buffalo, where dozens more children were paired up with local pageant queens and princesses, along with Buffalo police officers and deputies from the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
“I was paired with a 13-year-old who knew exactly what she wanted,” said RoseAnn Burke, Salvation Army volunteer. “I pretty much followed her around with the cart, and I was really impressed with her ability to find deals and get the things she wanted.”
As Burke’s shopping experience moved along pretty effortlessly, that’s not always the case. Shopping for a teen or tween can be pretty daunting for an officer or deputy with kids out of school and who haven’t regularly shopped for children in years.
“It can be a little uncomfortable for the officer where they’re usually not uncomfortable,” said Jim Hayden, Salvation Army case manager.
That’s also part of the fun. Ideally, the kids are quick to learn that officers can be approachable and are easy to talk to, despite their positions of power.
“It’s a lot of interaction,” Hayden explained. “Hopefully teaching some education and self-sufficiency would be great.”
As each item is added to the shopping cart, many of the law enforcement shoppers keep a running total and continually ask the kids how much money is left to spend.
Many of the officers had lessons of their own as they headed to the register. Fortunately for most, the total dollar amounts were very close to the $80 goal. Some were slightly more, others slightly less, and then there was the one cop-kid team who happened to be spot on. They shared a high-five while everybody walked out with smiles, knowing they are a little more prepared for that first day of school.
For more information on the Salvation Army’s work or volunteering opportunities, visit SalvationArmyNorth.org or contact Northern Division headquarters at 651-746-3500.