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ICPD treats troubled children to shopping trip

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | DECEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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The aisles of the Iowa City Wal-Mart rang with high-pitched shouts and laughter this past weekend.

But the children picking out items for shopping carts have not had a year full of smiles.

This year, local children who have recently suffered a traumatic event or are in foster care were selected to participate in the Iowa City Police Association's annual "Shop with a Cop."

The event, which began in 1996, pairs local children with Iowa City police officers for a few hours of shopping for needed items, as well as gifts.

"In past years, we'd solicit the schools to send us lists of kids," said Jorey Bailey, a crime-prevention officer for the Iowa City police. "And this year, we've really gone on personal experience by the officers with families; families that officers know have children that may want to come shop, and that may be in need of the experience."

This year, there were 11 officers and 20 children working together to find the items the children needed, Bailey said.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said children typically come to Shop with a Cop with a list of basic necessities.

"We make sure that these kids get those basics that they need but also get the toys they want," she said. " … You almost have to push the kids to get toys. Usually, they'll come with lists for the basic things. They just don't know what to do."

This year, the children appeared to warm up to the officers quickly, zipping from aisle to aisle and excitedly showing officers — who volunteer their time for the event — their findings.

Kurt Penfold, the Iowa City Wal-Mart store manager, said he looks forward to the event every year.

"We're always excited about more business in the store, but especially excited to see the kids; see how excited they get when they have this opportunity," he said.

Bailey said Shop with a Cop is not just a positive opportunity for the children but also for the officers.

"Oftentimes, we deal with families when they're at their worst," Bailey said. "And we look forward to every opportunity we can to get out and interact with community members, specifically kids, on other levels. So this gives us that opportunity."

To finance the shopping trip, Brotherton said, the Police Association conducted fundraisers in which community members made enough contributions to successfully run the program this year.

Penfold noted the children are able to give in addition to receiving.

"They're going around the store shopping, not just for one person, but all their siblings and parents," he said. "So it's a great opportunity to have that feeling of giving."

Brotherton said the event helps build trust throughout the community as a whole.

"There may be distrust amongst the family and the police," she said. "This shows us in a different light and helps us build relationships. It shows that we're not always the bad guys and that we're here for support, too."


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