The Excelsior Springs Police Department found a special way to give back to the community when 16 youngsters joined them on the hunt for the perfect Christmas gifts. This is the first year that ESPD and area businesses teamed up to offer a new program, Shop with a Cop.
Over the weekend five police officers, their wives and girlfriends known as Santa’s elves and children from grades kindergarten through fifth from the Excelsior Springs School District were treated to a day none of them will soon forget.
“The program, Shop with a Cop, allows local law enforcement officers and children to develop a relationship that will make a difference in both their lives and hopefully last a lifetime,” explained ESPD Sgt. Mike Lewis, who spearheaded the operation. “The program allows children to go Christmas shopping with their designated officer to buy gifts for their family members.”
School counselors recommended the children who shopped with officers Saturday. Each student had his or her own touching story and most were selfless in the act of shopping for their loved ones.
“This program was started because most law enforcement personnel are also parents and understand how difficult the holiday season can be for everyone,” Lewis said. “Even moreso for those children who come from single parent households, as well as parents who have experienced layoffs and illness or injury during this difficult economic time.”
The day began early when officers, elves and children gathered in the basement of ESPD for a briefing. Children were partnered with officers and learned they would be taking a ride to Walmart on the Omni bus, which was also donated for the evening’s cause. Each child was given a green T-shirt with the Shop with a Cop logo to make them easily identifiable. Officers were given a shopping list the parents made, describing sizes and appropriate items that were on the family members’ Christmas wish lists.
Shoppers and employees at Walmart were touched by the sight of local law enforcement helping the children choose special gifts for their families. Soon the entire store was saturated with officers and their small friends with large eyes and generous hearts. The process of helping children find gifts was special; it was an evening ESPD officers agreed they would cherish for a lifetime.
After the two-hour shopping spree the children were still in for a few more surprises. Local restaurant Ventana Gourmet Grill was the next stop for the hungry group. Shop with a Cop youngsters were treated to their choice of fare from the children’s menu, but the excitement did not end there.
During a group photo and much to the children’s surprise, Santa Claus rushed in behind them and surprised everyone with a Ho, Ho, Ho! One by one each student sat on Santa’s lap and gave him their very own wish list.
“I think the evening was a huge success and everything worked out great,” said Lewis. “The officers and kids had a blast hanging out and with the assistance of all of the volunteers, I couldn’t have been happier for everyone involved. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had, not only as an officer, but as a person.”
Officers began preparing for the day long before the event took place, but everyone agreed that without generous donations from local businesses the night would not have been possible.
“Sharing the special evening with the kids was not just amazing, but it was made possible by the help of many, many businesses and individuals within Excelsior Springs. The whole process makes you realize what an amazing town we live in and how generous everyone here can be,” Lewis said.
Contributing businesses included: Anytime Fitness, Clay Lodge #207, Westfall O’Dell Motors, Ventana Gourmet Grill, Miller’s Custom Cabinets, Chuck Anderson Ford, El Maguey, The Elms Hotel and Spa, the associates of Walmart, John’s Super, Hallmark, Scott Craven, the City of Excelsior Springs, Excelsior Chapter #168 Order of the Eastern Star and West-Central Missouri Regional Lodge #50 Fraternal Order of Police.
By Jae Juarez • firstname.lastname@example.org