Christmas came early for 15 lucky boys and girls at the Canby Fred Meyer this weekend, as they and their families joined Canby Police Department officers for a beloved annual tradition, Shop With a Cop.
The annual outreach by the Clackamas County Peace Officers Benevolent Foundation gives each kid a $160 gift certificate to purchase gifts and toys for themselves and family members.
Generous donors and coupons from Fred Meyer help each kid stretch their gift cards as far as possible, as Canby Police Sergeant Nate Wallbaum, who coordinates the annual event, explains.
“We have a number of anonymous donors, citizens and business owners from Canby, who donate annually,” a smiling Wallbaum said outside a checkout lane at Fred Meyer Saturday morning, as this year’s Shop With a Cop was winding down. “Their businesses have done well and they want to give back to the community.”
The children are chosen from each of the Canby School District’s elementary schools, as well as Ninety-One and Baker Prairie Middle School. The selections are based on financial need as well as families who may have had previous contact with law enforcement or the justice system.
“There are several of our students who might have incarcerated parents, so this is a really good opportunity for us to connect with them, maybe dissolve some of the negative thoughts they may have about law enforcement,” Wallbaum said. “And it lasts for years. They never forget this.”
It’s also a positive experience for the officers. While Canby police often have the opportunity to have positive interactions with citizens, Wallbaum said Shop With a Cop is certainly one of their most public outreaches — and one they look forward to each holiday season.
“It does bring us a lot of joy,” he said. “It’s incredible to watch some of the kids who may not have a lot of resources; they make lists and the lists aren’t just for themselves. It’s their Christmas list for their family members and loved ones. It kind of makes you get choked up.”
“It was absolutely adorable watching the kids pick stuff out,” said Molalla resident Annie Marie, who had stopped by for some shopping that morning. “Looking in the carts, they were obviously shopping for those they love.”
Wallbaum explained that the event fits into the CPD’s philosophy of community policing, an approach in which local law enforcement focuses on building relationships with the communities they serve.
“That’s one of our biggest focuses with our police department: community policing,” Wallbaum said. “It’s a partnership, and it really bridges the gap and takes away some of the intimidation. We’re here for them, and we’re not the bad guys.”
Kimi Barnhart, whose 9-year-old son, Abel, was one of the lucky participants this year, said she wanted to thank all who were involved.
“My son had so much fun and bought stuff for his siblings,” she said. “It was so sweet.”
As an added bonus this year, the Benevolent Foundation and Fred Meyer donated a bike to each student who wanted one. The store also provided hot drinks and other festive treats for the participants, officers and families.
The outreach normally provides a shopping spree to a maximum of 14 Canby students, but Police Chief Jorge Tro (or “Santa Tro” as he is sometimes known this time of year) had other ideas.
Seeing a passing youngster who was curious about the kids and officers pushing carts loaded with gifts and goodies through the checkout line, Tro grinned and asked, “Want to go shopping?”
Thus, a 15th lucky tyke got a Christmas experience they won’t soon forget.
For more information about Shop With a Cop, or to support the effort, call the Canby Police Department business office at 503-266-1104 or visit the Clackamas County Peace Officers Benevolent Foundation’s website at ccpobf.org.
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