Cleveland Walmart held its annual Shop With a Cop event Friday night to help local children have a jolly Christmas season. The 56 children who were picked for this year’s event were paired with peace officers from Liberty County Pcts. 5 and 6, Cleveland Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and Harris County Pct. 3 Constable’s Office. Some lucky children even had an opportunity to shop with Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader.
Aaron Weddington, manager of the Cleveland Walmart store, said that each of the 56 children were given $50 gift cards they could use to purchase Christmas presents. While most children usually shop for toys and clothing for themselves, some spend the money buying gifts for others.
“I enjoyed going around and seeing their faces. The kids seemed to know what they wanted this year and wasted no time. Some of them were checking out almost as soon as it started,” Weddington said.
Shop With a Cop was created to foster positive relationships between peace officers, children and their families. For some children, this event is the first opportunity for them to closely interact with a peace officer.
“We like to talk to the kids and their parents,” said Pct. 6 Constable Zack Harkness. “All of the children were from the Cleveland area. They seemed to love having their picture taken with us. It was a positive interaction. One of the Walmart employees, who saw what was going on, even chipped in $20 to help.”
Harkness expressed appreciation to Walmart for hosting the annual event.
“It is a good public relations event for us all. It’s something we, as law enforcement officers, can’t pass up. All of the kids are having a good time and everyone is happy. There are a lot of people behind the scenes donating to the event and Walmart is willing to host it, so I want to show my gratitude by showing up and participating,” Harkness said. “It’s Shop With a Cop, not Shop With a Firefighter. If you are a cop and you pass up on this event, then you are missing an opportunity.”
In the weeks leading up to the event, Cleveland police officers and staff helped raise some of the funds that were used for this year’s event by participating in No Shave November. To participate, CPD employees had to contribute a minimum of $50 to Shop With a Cop. Together, they raised an estimated $2,000.
Woodforest Bank, which has a branch inside the Cleveland Walmart, also sponsors the event.
Walmart’s Tim Hughes and Debra Terry helped organize the event, along with Sis. Juanita Lewis with Resurrection Ministries.