On Saturday, Dec. 2, some local children will be joined by local law enforcement officers for some Christmas shopping during the “Shop with a Cop” program.
Henry Moreno with the Gering Police Department said Scottsbluff is also participating in the program, now in its second year.
“We really enjoyed the program last year and it went really well,” Moreno said. “We had about 60 to 70 kids participate. This year, we have enough funding for just over 100 kids.”
For at least the past decade, “Shop with a Cop” programs have been sponsored everywhere from California to Connecticut in large metro areas and small towns alike. The event fosters positive relationships between youth and officers.
Along with the officers, the children go shopping for their immediate families. After shopping, the officers will help the children wrap their gifts while enjoying cookies and hot chocolate.
Moreno, who’s also involved in the 4-H program, said he’s kid oriented and always wants to see kids succeed. “This type of even is very rewarding for me,” he said. “Some kids in our community don’t have much and may be going through hard times. I want to show there there’s a lot of good in people and in the world.”
There has also been a lot of community support for Shop with a Cop. The program has received grants from both Walmart and Target. The Hampton Inn also donated one of its conference rooms and will provide wrapping paper where the kids and cops can wrap the gifts after shopping. The hotel will also provide treat bags for the kids.
“The program is also great for the kids to interact with law enforcement officers,” Moreno said. “Kids don’t usually get to do that. They can see we’re just people.”
Moreno is now reaching out the schools and the School Resource Officers to identify kids who could be nominated for the program.
“The schools know more about the needs of their students and their circumstances than we could,” Moreno said. “We’ve also had people from the community nominate kids for the event.”
A number of businesses and individuals have donated to the program. An account is established at Platte Valley Bank to help the Shop with a Cop program.
“We live in a very giving community and I love living here for that reason,” Moreno said. “It feels like that all year long, so I want to pay some of it back.”
While the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t able to participate this year, Sheriff Mark Overman said he’s a big supporter of the Shop with a Cop program.
“Anything we can do to engage the community, especially kids, is something I strongly support,” Overman said. “Getting involved in the community is first and foremost what we do. People work here because they want to help their community and the Shop with a Cop program is a great example of that.”
Overman added there are kids in the community that need some help. The program gives them a good impression of law enforcement, not just dealing with them when something bad or sad happens.
Moreno said last year one young boy and his officer got along well and the child shared about himself, his family, and what he was going on in his life. When they returned from shopping, the child had purchased a gift for the officer. The boy thanked the officer for what he did and said he would remember the day for the rest of his life.
“All the guys try to keep their emotions under control, but that kind so gesture affects us all,” Moreno said. “Some of the stories we hear are sad, but it’s real. That’s what life is about.”