Police spread holiday cheer through ‘Shop with a Cop’

Just days before Christmas, Champlin’s Target was abuzz with cops. They were there donating their time to escort ten local students on a holiday shopping trip throughout the store. After a hiatus in 2011, Shop with a Cop was back in full force this year in Champlin thanks in large part to a donation from Riverway Church to the city’s Crime Prevention Fund. Several officers from Champlin along with officers from Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center participated in the shopping excursion.

The program was brought back this year after a lack of funding last year. Officers Roxanne Affeldt and Dan Irish were integral in coordinating the program in 2010.

“The officers wanted to do it again and had identified kids in need,” said Champlin Police Chief Dave Kolb.

Affeldt, police liaison to Jackson Middle School, said she worked with the school’s student support services team to identify local students and families that would benefit from some extra assistance during the holidays.

“That’s when the Champlin community stepped in to bring back Shop with a Cop,” said Kolb. Pastor Ryan Elie of Riverway Church presented a check to the Champlin Police Crime Prevention Fund requesting the donation be used specifically for the program.

“The kids have all experienced some sort of hardship or tragedy in the past year,” said Champlin Police Chief Dave Kolb. Most of the time, police officers responded to those difficult situations.

“That might be a kid’s only experience with a police officer,” said Kolb. “It bothers me to think that cops are only associated with tragedy and hard times. They’re good people and those tragic situations are hard on them too.”

Champlin Officer Gerald (Jerry) Gnerre was apparently having a great time with his shopping companion, as he joked around with him about his shopping cart driving skills. The morning’s activities were peppered with lots of smiles and high fives.

“He looks like a tough guy and could probably tear a phone book in half, but has a substantial soft spot for kids,” said Kolb.

The students were notified ahead of time so they would have time to come up with some ideas for whom they would like to shop for and what they would like to buy.

“The dollar amounts are very modest. Sometimes we’re just helping them buy socks for their little brother, but it’s a nice way to sow them that the community and the cops are willing to help,” said Kolb.

Each student was given a $100 gift card to buy gifts for family members, siblings and something for themselves. Target provided a complimentary lunch and gift-wrapping after the shopping was complete.

“The kids are overjoyed being able to benefit from some financial assistance to provide some gifts to their family,” said Affeldt. “The experience also provides them some positive interaction with police.”

Affeldt participated in 2010 when the Champlin Police Department hosted their first Shop with a Cop event. She recalls a very touching experience with the girl she took shopping that year.

“Her mom and dad told her to take the money she would have used on them and get a couple of toys for Toys for Tots,” said Affeldt who was overwhelmed by the generosity of a family, clearly in need but still thinking of others.

“This is an outstanding program and I’m glad it’s back this year,” said Affeldt.

Another Target shopper, observing a police sergeant with one of the kids approached the sergeant and insisted he accept a donation to the program on the spot.

“I’m not surprised to see that happen in Champlin. People care here,” said Kolb. “I’m also not surprised to see our officers reaching into their own pockets at the register. They can be pretty tough and business-like during a tragedy, but they care about people. That’s why they’re cops.”

The Champlin Police Crime Prevention Fund accepts tax-deductible donations to support crime prevention, education and outreach programs.

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