Elementary school kids from the Tukwila School District had a jolly time Dec. 8 when they participated in the annual Shop With A Cop event.
Shop With A Cop is held each year where children are provided gift cards to buy them and their families gifts for the holidays, according to Lisa Harrison, training coordinator for the Tukwila Police Department.
She said every year, a sizable donation is given to the department from Target, Acura of Seattle and other entities donated food for the event.
This year Harrison said they received about $3,800 to split among the children. She said she usually divides the money up into gift cards to give to each child.
This year, the nine kids were able to have a little shopping spree at Target.
The children are selected by social workers within the district, she said.
“I’m thankful the social workers choose them because I know we have such a high need community. I just email them and say, ‘Hey can you get me kids that are in the fourth or fifth grade.’ I prefer toward the fifth grade because we still actively teach ‘DARE’ in our community and we target the fifth grade for that program. So those kids already have exposure to police, so we just kind of build on that,” Harrison said.
She explained the amount of kids that are able to participate is driven by staffing levels. She said the most they have ever been able to accommodate was 12 because it is hard for the officers to get the time off for the event.
To get the day started, Harrison said the team of officers go and pick up the children from their homes.
Harrison said this year the kids got to sleep in before they were picked up. She said in the last few years they have done Shop With A Cop, the kids were picked up at 6 a.m., but this year they cut them some slack and picked them up at 8 a.m. instead.
Then they come to Target where they are then divided up with an officer to shop with.
“Each officer is given a packet that includes the shopping list so the kids are not just shopping for themselves, but they’re also shopping for the other family members in the household. Then they go shopping with the officer and the dollar amount varies per kid,” Harrison explained. “Like we had one child that has 10 members in his family and most of them were teenagers, so he had a little bit higher need than another family that was just a mother and a child. I try to break it up based on a certain dollar amount per person and then the officer goes and shops with the kid.”
Harrison said the shopping lists the kids are provided with come from their parental guardians, who will write down what they want their family to have for the holidays.
There’s a mix of necessities and wants, Harrison said.
“I mean one mom had written that she wanted laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent for Christmas. And another family had put they wanted underwear and socks for all the kids. It’s not uncommon for these families to be very humble and just want to ask for the basics,” she said.
While it is common for families to want common household needs like those, Harrison said there was one kid who was able to buy an electronic devices, but that was because it was for the whole family to share.
According to Harrison, it is really up to the officer to guide the children in the right direction and to stick with the shopping list.
“It’s really fun to watch them as they start to bond with their officer,” Harrison said.
Aside from the officers leading the kid around Target, Harrison said they get some volunteers to help out each year as well, including spouses of some of the officers and a couple of women from Acura of Seattle who like to volunteer with them.
After all the shopping is done, the kids go over to the police station with their officer to wrap the gifts for their families.
Harrison said there was food provided by the Family Fun Center, Azteca and Jimmy John’s.
“I really think just given our kids and some of the situations they’re in, I think it’s really important that we continue to make those connections with the community,” she said. “And if we can show them the police in a positive light versus what they may have witnessed in their own neighborhood or their families, I think it’s beneficial and we start by going to them in the DARE program in an environment that’s safe for them, which is school. And then we just build on that. And to that extent, we have a couple officers that still shop for kids from previous Shop with a Cops from years ago. So some of these connections are lifelong.”
Contact reporter Kayse Angel at email@example.com.