By Vanesa Brashier, email@example.com
Forty-two children were treated to a pre-Christmas shopping trip at the Cleveland Walmart for this year’s Shop With a Cop, held Friday, Dec. 6.
Shop With a Cop, now in its sixth year, is a partnership between Resurrection Ministries, Walmart, law enforcement agencies throughout Liberty and San Jacinto counties, city leaders, businesses and community supporters. The event gives children who might otherwise not have Christmas presents an opportunity to select items from the store at no cost. They are accompanied on their shopping trip by a law enforcement officer.
The purpose of the event is two-fold: to provide presents to deserving children in the community and provide an opportunity for positive interaction between children and law enforcement officers.
The children are selected by Resurrection Ministries, which works with local schools and groups to identify children in need. Their purchases are paid for by donations from Walmart, other local businesses and individuals. Any small overages that are incurred are paid for by the child’s law enforcement shopping buddy, Walmart or Woodforest Bank, which is located inside the Cleveland Walmart store.
Each child was given a $50 budget and allowed to pick their own items. Some of the children appeared to have scoped out the store in advance and zeroed in on the items they wanted within minutes.
“The kids I was shopping with knew right away what they wanted. The first little girl walked over to the shelf and said, ‘This.’ The next child, a boy, walked down the aisle and said, ‘This.’ All four of the kids in the family got something off those two gift cards,” said Sgt. Tommy Koen with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
When their items were totaled, they exceeded the limit of their gift cards by $16, which Koen paid for out of his own pocket.
LCSO Deputy John Bennett also opened his wallet to help the children he accompanied when they went over their limit by $31.
While the children might have been fascinated by the law enforcement officers’ uniforms and gear, they were mesmerized to see Santa, portrayed by Walmart Asset Protection Manager Tim Hughes. Some young children eyed Santa warily as they tried to assess if Santa had found them naughty or nice this year. Others just wanted hugs and kept returning to him again and again, some pulling his beard to make sure it was real.
Hughes has participated in all six years of Shop With a Cop at the Cleveland Walmart. He said it was heartwarming to see the children positively interacting with police officers.
“The best part of the night was when they were checking out of the store with their things and seeing the joyful looks on their faces,” Hughes said. “It’s a feeling you can’t explain. One of the little girls was in awe that Santa showed up tonight. Calling their name and seeing the looks on their faces was pure joy for me.”
For Cleveland Walmart Store Manager Aaron Weddington, this was his first year to participate in Shop With a Cop. He credits members of this staff – Debra Terry and Tim Hughes – for organizing this event and others that allow Walmart to help the community.
“I’ve been involved in things similar to this at other stores but this was the first time for me to see this event from a different lens,” said Weddington. “This was my first Shop With a Cop event to help organize. Now I am committed and motivated for us to do even more next year.”