Amid a sea of pink packaging, 10-year-old Jenny Saur reaches for a Barbie. Without much examination, she tosses in the cart Officer Casee Veren pushes. Veren is in full uniform. Her handcuffs gleam against the florescent lights of the Wal-Mart looming overhead.
After walking a few feet down the girls' toy section, Jenny reaches for another pair of dolls, another Barbie and a Moxie Girlz bubble bath. She holds them side by side before deciding on the bubble bath. She tosses it in the cart.
This unlikely duo is part of the Fraternal Order of Police's Shop with a Cop holiday event. For the past 10 years, the group works with The Salvation Army to select children from low income families and takes them shopping. FOP members use the money the order raises during its fundraisers to purchase holiday gifts for the child and for the child's family.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Officer Casee Veren, right, helps 10-year-old Jenny Saur pick out a present at Wal-Mart Tuesday evening. As part of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Shop with a Cop program, 21 local children were able to purchase between $80 and $100 worth of presents for themselves and their family.
"It's positive for the police department, and it's positive for all the families and children that we make contact with," said Capt. Chris Jones, with the Marshalltown Police Department and president of the FOP local lodge #2. "We have built some really positive relationships."
Each of the 21 children paired with local police personnel Tuesday night and got the chance to pick between $80 and $100 in gifts for their family. Jones said that sometimes the kids have gifts in mind. Other times, officers help them decide.
A few aisles over from Veren and Jenny, Lt. Ryan Goecke helps Jordan Burn, 10, pick out a chair.
"They need something they can use together," Jordan tells Goecke. "I know they have friends over."
FOP Vice President Officer Dave Danielson said the kids are always thankful. The children's little grins make the program worthwhile. The FOP holds a similar event during back-to-school time.
Danielson said he wishes the FOP could do more.
Down the game aisle, Officer Brian Siebert helps Julian Spencer, 10, pick another game. He is unsure about "Mouse Trap."
"This one looks kind of fun," Siebert says, holding a box painted with personified game pieces playing the game contained in the box with eager grins on their faces.
Jones said the community support for the program has been good. Each year, the FOP raises between $8,000 and $10,000 for the holiday and back-to-school events. The lodge gets letters throughout the year lauding the program, he added.
But it's the donations that speak the loudest, he said. They show that citizens believe in the police department's effort to branch out into the community.
Near the front of the store, Alex Perez, 11, stands with Officer Craig Lageshulte, adding up the total of all the items in their cart. Alex has been so focused on getting gifts for his family, that he has yet to pick out something for himself. Lageshulte tells him he should find something for himself.
"That's the important part," he tells Alex. "We are here for you."