The rules of Shop With A Cop are two: no air-soft guns and all video games and movies purchased must be age appropriate.
Beyond that, Walmart was wide open for nine kids on Dec. 14, each with $100 to spend on whatever they want for Christmas, school or other needs.
The store donated $700 to the police department and private citizens added $200 more in the second annual Shop With A Cop. The kids, some with siblings in tow, spent an hour or so shopping with a Hood River Police officer or Hood River County Sheriff’s deputy. Chief Neal Holste said it’s a way for the officers to spread some cheer, and for the kids to develop a positive impression of the men in uniform.
Bikes, toy cars, stuffed animals, clothes, and, yes, a video game or two, went into the youngsters’ baskets as they and a parent or family member perused the aisles, the officer or deputy keeping track in their notebook, with help from Walmart store associates.
“So what’s the deal?” a customer asked when they saw Holste and middle schooler Toby, his individual (as the chief likes to call the young shoppers).
“This young man got to pick out a bicycle,” Holste said, and explained how Shop With A Cop works.
“That’s a wonderful thing,” the woman told her. Holste said Toby “told me right off he knew just want he wanted. He had the bike ready. He’d been thinking about it all week.”
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids who are in need to get things for Christmas they might not have,” said reserve deputy Bob Stewart. His individual, Enrique Flores, bought toys, some things for school, and socks for his brother. Manuel, 15 months. Sisters Brianna and Daisy, 9 and 6, also got to choose a toy. “It’s awesome he’s sharing with his siblings. I appreciate his thought,” Stewart said.
“I’m really thankful they’re doing this for the kids, especially this time of year,” said Enrique’s mother, Luz Flores.
Sharing their $100 was the pattern with the individuals. Fabiana Alejo of Parkdale let her brother, Manuel, choose a toy, and he broke into a huge smile when deputy Jess Flem told him he could go pick out the car of his choice. The generosity went the other way, too: when police Sgt. Don Cheli’s individual chose a toy for her sister, and it went over the $100, Cheli pitched in for the extra.
Holste said he would love to see the program expand with the help of other retailers.
“It’s great. I’d spend five hours shopping if we had to. It’s a great gift. These kids are excited.” “It’s pretty nice of the community to do that, to bring the kids so much joy is just amazing. It’s really cool,” said Hilda Alejo. mother of Fabiana and Manuel. (During Shop With A Cop, Alejo ran into an old friend, Dixie Webber of The Dalles. Alejo was the nurse at Webber’s former doctor’s office and the two women had not seen each other in a few months. “I thought I heard a familiar voice,” Webber said, and came from one aisle over to give Alejo a hug and tell her she misses her.)