Parachute’s Shop with a Cop event helps more children this year
Local law enforcers and firefighters placed their regular duties on hold to take kids in need shopping Saturday.
Each holiday season, police departments across the country use local donations to bring kids shopping at retail stores like Walmart. Known as Shop with a Cop, these kids don’t pay a dime for anything they want to put in their carts.
This year, the Parachute Police Department and the Grand Valley Fire Protection District again joined forces and helped more local Parachute kids, increasing from eight families last year to 15 on Saturday. Members of the New Castle Police Department, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshall also participated.
Parachute Police Chief Sam Stewart said the department works closely with the Garfield 16 School District to get the names of kids and their families that may need help.
“This tells us there’s a lot of hurt out there,” Stewart said. “(They’ve) got a lot of families on their list that need help.”
Donations accumulated for Parachute’s Shop with a Cop event reached between $4,000-$5,000 in previous years. This year it was $8,300.
On Saturday, the kids were specifically given a $300 allotment to spend at Walmart. They were also given $75 gift cards to Clark’s Market in Battlement Mesa and Family Dollar.
“We also got coats for the kids this year and toiletry kits,” Stewart said. “Because it’s not just Christmas presents they need.”
“It’s important for us to do everything we can.”
Saturday’s affair started off with everyone meeting at the fire station in Parachute. Near 10 a.m., the Walmart parking lot started filling with squad cars and kids. Small groups of kids were then paired with law enforcers and firefighters, and the shopping began.
As Parachute Police Officer Will Van Teylingen grabbed a cart with his fellow shopper, he spoke of what he liked the most about being involved with Shop with a Cop.
“Putting smiles on the kids’ faces,” he said.
Grand Valley Fire Protection District’s Jed Johnston had already visited the aisles occupied by PAW Patrol and Barbie. He said his kid had a list of people she was finding gifts for.
“I get the easy part,” he said. “I get to enjoy this, and it’s truly a blessing just to see their desire to to look for things for their family.”
Though it’s not his jurisdiction, New Castle Police Chief Chuck Burrows said it’s very great for the community to be able to help out the other agencies.
Burrows also spoke to law enforcers showing just how positive their involvement with the community actually is.
“It tells you that we got a lot of support from the community,” he said. “With the climate of things in law enforcement right now, to be able to have that kind of show and support from the community, it’s pretty special.”
The Rifle Police Department is also holding its annual Shop with a Cop event this Saturday.
“This annual event helps build positive relationships between young children, their families and law enforcement,” a RPD news release states. “This time-honored tradition helps ensure families have a special holiday season complete with gifts, fun memories and new friends.”
Rifle’s School Resource Officer, Josh Allison, works with elementary school principals and fifth-grade teachers to identify children who would benefit from the Shop with a Cop program, the release states. Once those children are identified, Officer Allison reaches out to the parents to educate them on the program and see if they would be interested in participating.
Once Officer Allison receives permission from the parent/guardian the child is signed up for the program.
“The service provided to children is not only that of satisfying material needs, but to additionally serve them by providing a positive experience with law enforcement officers and the law enforcement community,” the release states. “Some children identified through this program have negative memories of law enforcement officers.”
Left untended, these negative feelings and emotions could carry into the teenage years and adulthood, the release states.
“By serving these children in uniform, the officers hope to enforce a different image for them to hold onto — an image of trustworthy, caring men and women who are there to help and assist them with whatever needs they have.”
Also last Saturday, the Glenwood Springs Police Department hosted its 13th Annual Shop with a Cop. Officers and members of the CareFlight crew took 32 children shopping at Target while volunteers wrapped their gifts, according to a GSPD Facebook post.
Donors for the the Glenwood Springs effort included the Hotel Colorado, Cedar Lodge Motor Inn and Electrical Outfitters, among others.
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