Seeing officers in a different lightPolice officers were spotted in nearly every aisle of Wal-Mart on Saturday, causing many weekend shoppers to display curious and confused looks on their faces.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Police officers were spotted in nearly every aisle of Wal-Mart on Saturday, causing many weekend shoppers to display curious and confused looks on their faces.
But there was no serious crime in progress; cops weren’t there to make any arrests or catch any shoplifters.
Instead, they accompanied local children who were in search of Christmas presents that would suit each member of their family.
Twenty underprivileged kids were selected to take part in Shop with a Cop, an event coordinated by the Red Wing Police Department and Y-Pals, a mentorship program.
A $1,000 donation from both Wal-Mart and Behrens Auto Supply, along with $500 donations each from the Red Wing Police Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police River View Lodge 7, gave the program enough of a budget to provide $100 of spending money to each child. The final thousand dollars was spent on giftwrapping supplies, goodie bags and lunch for the group.
While filling up on pizza, kids compiled shopping lists with an officer and a volunteer before grabbing a cart and hitting the store.
“A lot of these kids have had a negative association with the police officers,” Kate Eiynck of Y-Pals said. “Our goal is to have them interact with the police in a positive setting.”
What’s more positive than the toy department? Several of the kids made an immediate beeline for the toy aisles to pick out Hot Wheels cars, talking stuffed animals and Barbie dolls for their siblings or cousins.
Seven-year-old Mercedes Nelson had her eye on a Power Wheels police car for her brother, but knew that particular gift wouldn’t work out.
“They’re too big to fit in a cart,” she explained, walking away and looking for something more reasonably sized.
Shopping alongside FOP River View Lodge 7 member and Zumbrota police officer Gene Leifeld, Nelson wandered elsewhere in the store, finding items for her sister, grandpa and grandma.
Meanwhile, Peyton Haider, a first-grader at Sunnyside Elementary School, mulled over what his family members might appreciate.
“My mom likes kittens,” Haider said as he picked out a gift he deemed perfect for her. She won’t know exactly what her present is until Christmas, but furry little felines are definitely involved.
Red Wing police officer Serena Frazier — who calculated costs as Haider tossed gifts in the shopping cart — has participated in Shop with a Cop each of the three years the program has been held in Red Wing.
“I like getting the kids out. It gets them to kind of open up,” she said. “And it builds every year, which is nice.”
Officer Kyley Groby is a little more new to the program, having only been with the Red Wing police for about a year. Still, she volunteered and was paired up with 6-year-old Branson, who decided that creative giftwrapping is going to make his family extra surprised to see what they get come Christmas.
“She’s going to think it’s a big Tootsie Roll,” he said with a sly smile on his face, referring to his mom’s present after it was wrapped.
Volunteers from the community were set up at tables with wrapping paper, tape, bows, labels, tags and ribbons so the children’s newly purchased gifts would be ready to go directly beneath the tree at home.
“The feedback seemed to be the kids were happy, and that’s all that matters,” Eiynck said after the event.
Anyone interested in contributing to next year’s Shop with a Cop can give monetary donations to the Red Wing Police Benevolent Association. To become a volunteer at the event, contact Kate Eiynck with Y-Pals at 651-388-4724.