Local cops helping families with ‘Shop with a Cop’
For the Gering Police Officer Justin Brunz, joy of the Shop with a Cop program comes down to one thing: seeing the light in kids’ eyes when they arrive at a local store to shop for their moms, dads, sisters and brothers.
Brunz, who is overseeing the Shop with a Cop program for the first time this year, said bringing a positive experience to kids is the main reason he has been involved in the program, which is on its fourth year in the community.
“The light up in their face, they are so excited to go shopping,” he said. “When they ride in the cars, they get to run the controls and they have fun, but they are super excited when we get to the store and they get to select gifts for their family members.”
Ninety-eight percent of the kids have a list, he says, and they are ready to shop for their moms, dads, siblings, aunts, uncles or even a family friend.
Kids are selected by area schools. This year, the program is partnering with schools in Scottsbluff, Gering, Lake Minatare, and Minatare. Schools may select children based on need, or have other criteria, such as selecting children who have been performing well or have been leaders at the school. Letters are then sent to parents, asking if their child can participate, and kids arrive on a pre-scheduled time and date for their shopping trip.
This year, kids will shop on Dec. 1, then enjoy wrapping gifts and getting to know local law enforcement officers from area agencies over hot chocolate and cookies. Scottsbluff Police, Gering Police, Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department and the Nebraska State Patrol participate. The Gering Public Schools’ Family and Consumer Sciences students make cookies for the program.
This year, kids will get to spend $75 on gifts for a loved one.
“We encourage them to be in the giving spirit,” Brunz said.
It’s a good program to help out as people struggle financially during hard economic times, but it also serves to bridge gaps by showing kids the positive things law enforcement do. It is a positive way that law enforcement can interact with kids, and their parents, Brunz said.
“I like the positive experience than we can give the kids. We want the kids to see that we (law enforcement) care about our community. We want to give back. And, we want them to come to us if they are in trouble or they need help.”
Oftentimes, Brunz said, as law enforcement officers are out shopping with the kids, people will stop them to give money to the program. This year, to help promote the program and an easy way for people to donate, the Shop with the Cop program has set up a GoFundMe account: https://bit.ly/2TlcFP8. Donations can also be made at local law enforcement agencies or any Platte Valley Bank location.
The Shop with a Cop program is completely funded by donations. Local police Fraternal Orders donate to the program, but it does not cover the costs, Brunz said. Donations from businesses and people in the community provide the bulk donations.
“Without (the help of the community), the program would not be possible,” Brunz said, saying the Shop with a Cop program appreciates the community support.
Mitchell, Morrill, Chadron, Kimball and Sidney will also be participating in Shop with A Cop programs. Contact police departments in those communities for more details about becoming involved.