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Shop with a Cop to serve 100 children

T-R file PHOTO Marshall County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Hungerford and Madison Johnson search for a perfect gift during last year’s Shop with a Cop event.

Shop with a Cop is set to be bigger than ever this year in Marshalltown.

Marshalltown Police Department Office Andrew Cole said the department is really trying to hit a home run with the annual Christmas shopping event this year.

He has been participating in the event since 2008, and he said there has never been a bigger number of children going shopping.

“A philanthropy group told us to figure out how to get 100 kids and that is our goal,” Cole said. “We have 85, so we have 15 left. There are families we are still making contact with so this will be our biggest year by far.”

Not only is there a higher number of children involved, but the Marshalltown Fire Department has a role to play, as well. After the shopping is over, all of the children will take their gifts to the joint police and fire department building. In the community room, they will gather for a small gift wrapping party.

The kids can decorate and feast on Christmas cookies and the firemen will wrap the presents.

“Instead of just giving them presents to take home and hand over, we want them to put them under the tree,” Cole said. “It is our way of extending the Christmas spirit. It’s a new twist we are doing.”

Before 2018, Cole said the average number of children participating was 20. Then the same philanthropy group that bumped the number this year, requested that 40 children be included in 2018. Cole said they gave enough money to double the number of kids.

Due to the large number of children participating, there will be four shopping trips with 25 kids shopping in each one at Walmart. The first trip will occur on Thursday and the second on Friday. The next two will happen Dec. 19 and Dec. 20.

The children will gather at Walmart and be paired with a law enforcement officer. Given the high number of children, some officers might have more than one child.

“All the officers really like it,” Cole said. “They have fun seeing the smiles on their faces.”

Each child is given $100 and told to buy something for Christmas.

“We talk to the kids and try focus to them getting one big gift for themselves, but we also give them an idea on how many people are in their family,” Cole said. “Some kids might spend $50 or $60 on themselves but others want to spend it all on their mom and dad, on their sister or brother to make sure they have a good Christmas.”

Cole said the officers merely serve as calculators and shopping cart pushers for the small shoppers. Some children like to get items such as perfume for their mothers or fishing lures for their fathers, but they spend a lot of time in the toy section of Walmart.

“It is fun to see the magic of gift giving through children’s eyes,” Cole said. “That is the way I see it. This is by far, one of my favorite events to do. I like Christmas time. My wife refers to me as ‘Clark’ from the Griswolds.”

Participating children are chosen based on referrals from other officials, such as from the school districts in Marshall County, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and YSS. The officer said the families have to be in some need.

It is tied in to the effort the MPD is taking to stay relevant in community philanthropy and to establish trust between law enforcement and youth in Marshall County, because Shop with a Cop is not limited to residents of Marshalltown.

“The focus is to the betterment of the youth,” Cole said. “We want them to have a better tomorrow than what they had today.”

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com

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