On Saturday, Dec. 16, members of the public safety departments were paired up with children for the annual Shop with a Cop event in Perry. Police officers, fire fighters, and lifesavers from the Dallas County EMS volunteered to take on a special responsibility for the day: helping children provide for their families during the holidays.
Starting bright and early, families and officials poured into the Perry Elementary School during the 8 a.m. registration. Upon arrival, children were paired with an officer who they got to spend the morning shopping with.
Perry Police Department Dispatcher, Joey Loewen, took over the Shop with a Cop program following the departure of Detective Jerome Hill.
“I’ve been with the police department since 2009 and I’ve always helped with it,” Loewen said. “The last probably four years I’ve been kind of helping him [Jerome Hill] with it and then last year he gave me a little more and then I just pretty much said that I would take it.”
Planning for the event typically begins in October, Loewen says, but donations are received all year round. This year, around $5,000 dollars was donated to the program.
“We get more donations when the community sees the kids shopping,” Loewen said.
At the end of the day, Loewen received two additional donations after spectators saw the officers in stores shopping with kids. The donations will be used for the following year’s event.
“I enjoy seeing the kids and seeing their faces when they’re out shopping,” Loewen said. “Just to see the kids faces being able to do this for their family is wonderful and they enjoy riding with the officers and some of the officers turn on their sirens for them.”
“Just seeing the children interacting with these guys is amazing to me.”
Shop with a Cop is spread out throughout the community: breakfast at Hy-Vee in the morning, followed by store visits to Shopko, Dollar General and Ben Franklin’s, and lunch donated by Casey’s.
After enjoying a donated breakfast from Hy-Vee, pairs were off to shop.
In Shopko, a West Des Moines officer helped pick out a bear for a younger sister.
Members of the Fire Department helped decide what treats would be best for a family pet.
Down the aisle from the toys, Detective Laura Deaton from the Perry Police Department suggests picking out a pair of fuzzy socks for a child’s Mom. Deaton has been helping with the event for five years.
Across from Deaton in Shopko, Perry Police Department Officer Ernadina Mujakic, volunteers for her fourth year. Mujakic says seeing kids’ big smiles during the day is her favorite part.
Back at the Elementary, Patty Anderson of the Perry Police Department assists in the wrapping process.
“I’m a speedy wrapper,” Anderson laughs.
Her favorite part is seeing how happy the kids are, a common theme that continues to pull in more volunteers each year.
Des Moines Officer, Lourdes Clay, and previous Perry Officer, has attended the event for four years in a row.
“I just like helping the underprivileged kids,” Clay said. “I mean, I grew up in Des Moines and my Mom was a single mom of six kids.”
“Just [enjoy] giving back to the community.”
The program not only has continued to rise since its start, but it brings many together, Chief Eric Vaughn describes.
“I think the first year was maybe 10 people,” Vaughn said. “As it’s grown in, we’ve drawn in people in the Police Department, we drew in firemen, spouses, friends, other offices, EMS, and everything.”
Many give back during the day, Vaughn says.
“I think it’s great in numerous ways; it gives the opportunity to take the kids out that probably normally don’t get to shop for themselves, it provides a Christmas for the families that otherwise wouldn’t have it or helps supplement their Christmas, and it’s just a good interaction between the kids and officers and the paramedics.”
“It’s just a good interaction, not only with the kids, but with their families; it provides some good woodwork, not only in this season, but throughout the year.”