Shop with a Cop brightens back to school

Minnesota youth connect with local law enforcement.

shopwcopNationwide, Shop with a Cop partnerships between nonprofits and local law enforcement have offered youth opportunities to spend a day getting to know their hometown police officers, mainly near the holidays. The Salvation Army in Owatonna, Minn., schedules theirs just in time for back to school.

The idea is simple. Over the course of a two-hour shopping spree, one child and one officer are paired up to pick out clothing, hygiene items and other accessories needed during the school year. At the end of the event, the pair get their picture taken and sit down to a meal and conversation. This year, Owatonna’s event took place at the local Wal-Mart, where shoppers were each allotted $150.

“We want to build relationships between law enforcement and children in the community,” said Gina Shepherd, Case Manager. “We want our children to know it is safe to go to the police when they need help. Also, to know that police officers are people too.”

Owatonna’s program, which focuses on students through middle school, is now in its eighth year. Each year the program grows in popularity, something organizers find particularly gratifying.

“The children and officers love the time they spend together shopping and sharing a meal,” said Shepherd. “The smile on everyone’s faces says it all … we know we are making a difference in our community.”

Minnesota Steele County Sheriff Lon Theile agrees. “It helps the kids, and we get to be positive role models for them as law enforcement,” he said.

“At the end of the day we know that we have done the most good and have instilled hope, compassion, strength and faith in all who were there,” Shepherd said.

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