Cops Shop With Kids For Christmas
HAZLE TWP. — State police troopers from Troop N and others from across the Commonwealth spent Saturday morning with 33 children from the Hazleton One Community Center shopping for Christmas presents.
State police partnered with Walmart on Airport Road for the Shop with a Cop program, in which less fortunate children are given money to shop for Christmas gifts for their family and a little bit for themselves.
Walmart provided a $2,500 grant to fund the program, which not only teaches children about giving but also builds positive relationships between police and children, Trooper 1st Class David Peters said.
Thirty-three children and their families gathered in the Walmart Garden Center, where each child was paired up with a trooper to shop the store. Ample carts awaited the wide-eyed shoppers, as Santa Claus made the rounds escorted by one of his elves. Walmart employees wearing Christmas attire passed out holiday cookies and handed out candy canes.
“It’s all about giving back and the kids and Christmas,” said Drew McConville, store manager. “It’s about reaching out to the community and giving (the children) something they wouldn’t have.”
The children, who attend the Hazleton One Community Center, received $75 to spend on their families and could spend $10 of that on themselves, Peters said. They asked the children to come up with a list of what they wanted to buy and the troopers would help them cross off each of them, he said.
Ben Medina, executive director of the Hazleton Integration Project at the center, said they’re happy to partner with state police and Walmart for the program, as the children learn about giving at the holidays and not receiving.
“We do all this for the kids,” he said. “I like to see their faces when they buy for their family.”
Last year, 10 troopers helped 20 children shop, and this year, they wanted the children to be paired one-on-one with a trooper in order to make more of a connection with them, Peters said. Troopers from all of Troop N’s stations, including Hazleton, Bloomsburg, Fern Ridge, Lehighton and Stroudsburg, took part, as well as troopers from other parts of the state, including the recruiting office, he said.
“We’re here until they’re done,” Peters said.
After shopping, the children and troopers went to the community center to wrap the gifts and eat pizza, he said.
Children are often taught to be afraid of police, but programs such as Shop with a Cop break down the barriers that might keep a child from coming to them for help, Peters said.
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