Local ‘Shop with a Cop’ brings smiles to kids, officers | The Cullman Tribune

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‘Shop with a Cop’ brings smiles to kids, officers

 

Lt. Jeff Warnke shares a moment with the 6-year-old boy he was paired with for this year's Shop with a Cop event. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN - Officers from the Cullman Police Department (CPD) and Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) on Saturday met local families at Chick-fil-A, before heading off to take the kids shopping at Wal-Mart for the CPD’s annual Shop with a Cop Christmas event.  Sergeants Adam Clark and Todd Craig coordinated the event, leading a host of officers and volunteers who brought 17 kids to the store, and shopping on behalf of four others who could not accompany the group.  Additionally, officers shopped earlier in the week for 15 clients of the Cullman County Center for the Developmentally Disabled Margaret Jean Jones Center.

The event serves a dual purpose: to bring a little Christmas cheer to children and families in the community who might have trouble finding it on their own, and to give kids a chance to interact with law enforcement officers in a low-stress and high-fun environment.

Physician and Reserve Officer Dr. Scott Gordon Warner came to help, and told The Tribune, “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to see the police in a non-threatening way, and also develop good relationships with the police.  Hopefully, it’ll stay with them the rest of their lives, to see the policeman as their friend and a helper, because that’s really what we want to be.”

Clark said, “This is our fifth year.  We really enjoy doing it.  We actually had a good turnout for officers and volunteers this year, so we’re really excited.  We couldn’t do it without them.  We had a very good turnout for officers this year; we have nine or 10 here, and about 12 volunteers.

“We really want this to be a one-on-one with the officer, as much as possible, so the kid has a good experience with the police officer.  Our goal is to make sure these kids have a positive outlook on the officers.  We just want them to know us as regular human beings, not just police officers.  We are here to help them; it’s what we’re here for. 

“We just enjoy doing stuff to help people out.  Most of the guys that do this profession, that’s why they do it--because they like to help people.  It’s not for the money, believe me!” Clark laughed. “The biggest thing is, we want the kids to have a positive experience with a police officer.”

The CPD officers and volunteers, along with a representative from the CCSO, met the kids at Chick-fil-A and escorted them to Wal-Mart.  There the children were allowed to shop for up to $200 worth of merchandise each, starting with coats, shoes and other needed clothing items they got to pick out themselves. 

Then it was off to the toy department, where the kids were like, well, kids in a toy store!  Some kids paused to take it all in, not quite knowing where to begin.  Others dove right in with enthusiasm and had prepared shopping lists they unfolded from their pockets and displayed to their amused adult helpers.  As officers helped the kids pick out toys or get items down from shelves, the volunteers tagged items with numbers corresponding to each child.

As the dust settled in the toy department, all the merchandise was gathered at the front of the store for payment.  Then everyone headed back to Chick-fil-A for lunch which the restaurant provided to the CPD at a substantial discount.  After parents picked up their kids, officers and volunteers left for CPD headquarters, where they enjoyed their own lunch and sorted gifts for distribution to shoppers’ families.  Parents will pick up the items in the coming week.

At lunch, Lt. Jeff Warnke, who was participating in his first Shop with a Cop event, reflected on the morning’s excitement.

“It was real fun.  It was something I haven’t done.  I don’t have a boy; I have a young daughter, so it’s my first time shopping with a 6-year-old boy,” he smiled. “It was quite an experience!  He was picking out a lot of stuff that I probably would have liked when I was 6 years old.  He had a buggy full of toys; he’s going to have a fantastic Christmas.  He was so excited in the store.  It was a really fun experience.”

See more photos at www.Facebook.com/CullmanTribune.

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  • W.C. Mann
    While other officers accompanied shoppers, Sgt. Adam Clark shopped for kids who could not come.
  • W.C. Mann
    Sgt. Todd Craig loads a cruiser with kids’ purchases.
  • W.C. Mann
    Officers and volunteers met back at police headquarters to enjoy their own lunch and sort gifts.