Dec. 8, 2016 – West Bend, WI – Wednesday night in West Bend it was Shop with a Cop at Walmart. The kids came in waves; a Christmas list in hand and an officer on their arm. The uniform of the day was a red Santa hat and a smile… for the kids too.
Shoppers stared. The kids buckled down and took care of business gathering gifts for their parents, siblings and even a dog named ‘Monster.’ The officers took orders well. They offered opinions and a bit of guidance in the makeup aisle, sniffed candle after candle in a section filled with way too many scents; corny hats were the biggest attraction.
Men and women from various Washington County law enforcement wrapped their arms around their evening assignment including Germantown PD, Kewaskum PD, West Bend PD, Jackson PD, Slinger PD, Newburg PD, Hartford PD, and the Washington County Sheriffs.
Arlene Kuehl is a school crossing guard in West Bend and a volunteer wrapper at Shop with a Cop. “This really affects the kids lives in a such a positive way,” Kuehl said. “Every year it gets better and better and better.”
Back at headquarters, aka West Bend Mutual Prairie Center, the kids and their cohorts received a warm supper and elves volunteered their time in a back room wrapping gifts to make for a better surprise on Christmas day.
Addison from Kewaskum had a 10-star rave review on her experience. “It was amazing and fun and I enjoyed it so much,” she said. “Just trying to figure out what to buy for friends and family for Christmas and then everybody was looking at me.”
Addison, 10, said she wanted to laugh at some of the stares because she was in the store with an officer at her side. “I’m sure kids were like ‘What? No fair!’ and I think they were jealous,” she said. “I actually felt bad for them because it would have been enjoyable for them to go too.
“This whole experience actually wasn’t about the gifts but about the time I was able to spend with people who felt joy in helping me.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to see police officers and law enforcement as something other than a negative,” said volunteer Sue McNutt with the Slinger Police Department. “Too often, especially if kids come from a disadvantaged situation, police are seen as a bad thing, so this helps teach them officers are friendly and they’re here to do good.”
Shop with a Cop was run by the Fraternal Order of Police this year; the Kettle Moraine Chapter took over from the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. Although Lieutenant Matt Rohlinger and organizer Tina Beres were a bit nervous the evening went off without a hitch.
“Matt and Tina really did a great job and they were very organized,” said volunteer Wendy Heather. “There are 42 kids who are shopping and just really excited.”
Heather said she was also very impressed with how police interacted with the kids. “Everybody looks like they’re having so much fun and it’s a healthy environment for everyone,” she said.
Beres was dressed in Christmas green and red and said she was pleased with all the support from volunteers and area businesses. “A lot of work went into this and it’s very satisfying seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and the officers are happy and enjoying this as much as the kids,” she said. “We want to give back to the community and show the officers just aren’t here to do their job but also to give something in return.”
Beres said they’re looking to grow the event in the future. “This year we add the pajamas and blankets for all the children to take home,” Beres said. “In the coming years we hope to be able to add more children to the program.”
Thank you to all the volunteers for making the 2016 event “the best day ever.”