The Canby Police Department brightened the Christmas of more than a dozen families earlier this month with the return of the beloved annual Shop With a Cop event at Fred Meyer.
The city partners with the Canby School District each year to identify 12 to 14 fourth- through sixth-grade students with financial need and who may benefit from a positive interaction with law enforcement.
“We’ve had kids in the past that may have had a loss in the family so this really lifts their spirits,” said Sergeant Nathan Wallbaum, who organized the event on Saturday, December 11. “Or they may have a parent who has been incarcerated, so it provides a really good touch-base for us. I think it helps break down walls.”
Each kid receives an approximately $150 Fred Meyer gift card, which they can spend on themselves and their loved ones however they choose, and are partnered with a uniformed officer who accompanies them on the shopping spree.
“It’s a really exciting time,” said Wallbaum. “It’s very important, especially in these times, because we’re moms and dads, too. We get to joke with the kids and kind of find out what they like. Unfortunately, we can’t serve everybody, so it’s kind of like they’ve won the lottery.”
Not surprisingly, the officers find themselves spending much of their time in the toy department each year. But they’ll also often be led to clothing, jewelry and even homewares in search of the perfect gift for parents and older family members.
“You’re having dad conversations or like Captain [Jose] Gonzalez: He’s a grandpa and sometimes doesn’t know what’s cool and what’s not, so he’s getting a real education right now,” Wallbaum said with a laugh.
“We have some teenage students where they don’t know how much they’re getting until they get here, so they’re kind of shell-shocked. They don’t know where to even start.”
The outreach is funded by the nonprofit Clackamas County Peace Officers’ Benevolent Foundation — which contributes to similar events throughout the county every holiday season — and anonymous donations to the Canby Police Department.
“I grew up in this town, and I have deep connections here, so I love these kinds of community events that really bring us together,” Wallbaum said.
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