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These kids got to go shopping with the cops!

By Staff | Dec 20, 2015

Sheriff Mike Gormley helps his shopping buddy pick out some Christmas gifts.

This time of year it is not uncommon to see stores busy with people hustling to finish up their last minute holiday shopping.

However, on Dec. 14 the local Walmart was not just hustling and bustling with shoppers. Instead, many people probably noticed police vehicles filling parking spaces and local law enforcement officers roaming the aisles of the store.

But, they were not there on a call. Instead the officers were there to help local children with a very special goal in mind a?goal of making their holidays a little brighter.

“It’s a good thing every year there is good energy,”?Erin Bromeland of the Sheriff’s office says. “We always have a good group of kids and the officers really enjoy it.”

December 14 marked the sixth year the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office has joined forces with other law enforcement agencies around the county to host the ‘Shop With A Cop’ event at the Blue Earth Walmart.

All of the participating sheriff and police at Blue Earth's Walmart.

“We get a list of names from Blue Earth Area and United South Central schools,” she says. “And we also had two referrals from Southern Plains in Winnebago this year, too.”

These children are then invited to make a shopping list to purchase gifts for their family members for the holidays.

“We also have officers keep an eye out for kids with any needs for this program,”?she adds.

This year, 11 children participated in the event which Bromeland says is about average each year.

“One year we had close to 15 kids but anywhere between 10-15 is normal,”?she explains.

Wells' Chief of Police Tim Brennigan helping a fellow shopper.

So, it was easy to say the aisles of Walmart were pretty busy last Monday.

“We sign up for a Walmart grant for ‘Shop With A Cop’ every year,”?Bromeland says.

The grant is worth $1,000, which goes toward the gifts each child will purchase that day.

Then, Bromeland says, each child is called a couple weeks before the shopping day and asked who the children will be shopping for.

“Some will shop for siblings, parents, grandparents,”?she says. “Once we know that, then we will set the dollar amount based on who they will be shopping for.”

More local police helping with the 'Shop with a Cop' event.

Bromeland adds that they also have the kids make a list of which gifts they plan to buy to keep the shopping trip a little more efficient.

Once the shopping is complete for the day, the children will even have help wrapping the gifts before they leave the store that day.

“We have a table and a couple of us from the Sheriff’s Office and a couple from Walmart who wrapped the gifts,” Bromeland says.

This year was an even more special year for the ‘Shop With A Cop’ program. The children were not only able to buy gifts for their loved ones, but they also got a gift themselves all thanks to extra funds and donations given to the program.

“This year we received funds from Thrivent; we got $250 from them,”?Bromeland says. “And, last year we received donations from outside people after the fact so we were able to put that towards this year’s event.”

Part of those extra donations went toward purchasing gifts for the children.

“This year we bought each of the kids a sweatshirt,”?she says. “BEA?students got a Buccaneer sweatshirt and USC?students got a Rebels sweatshirt.”

This program began in Faribault County in 2010 and has only improved from there.

“I had seen that Mankato had done the ‘Shop With A Cop’ program,” Bromeland explains. “So I ran the idea past Mike Gormley and Scott Adams and they said go ahead.”

From there they applied for the Walmart grant and the program was started.

“We started it and from the first year it was a success,”?she says.

Bromeland adds that this program is not all about purchasing gifts or even about the holidays, but also about building positive relationships between the children and the officers.

“We don’t always have kids who have had bad experiences with officers, but some have,”?she says. “We want them to have a positive experience with the officers.”

And, it seems to be working judging by the smile and laughter found at the ‘Shop With A?Cop’ event.

“It has been a good experience all around,”?Bromeland says.

Law enforcement personnel involved in the event this year included officers from Blue Earth, Winnebago, Wells, the Sheriff’s Department, State Troopers and more.