Shop with a Cop: Local law enforcement officers visit Walmart with students

Published 12:10 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Officer G.L. Summers hums to himself as he pushes a cart through the crowded isles of Walmart. The cart is already piled high with toys, a doll, some model cars and a camouflage jacket. But Hannah, a fifth-grader at North Rowan Elementary, leads the way towards the jewelry counter to find something for her mother.

Hannah is one of 22 local children who participated in Shop with a Cop on Thursday. It’s the second year local law enforcement agencies have run the program, which aims to give kids a chance to shop for themselves and their families while also seeing law enforcement officers in a positive light.

“It’s a big inspiration to the kids and the community itself,” Summers said.

The kids were each given a $100 gift card to Walmart, provided by the Walmart Foundation and a few local sponsors, Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said. Some, like Hannah, had a list of which presents to buy. Others left themselves more open to opportunity.

Eva, one of the students, browsed the aisles with Officer J.L. Moreau hunting for a present for her mother and brother. She picked out a bike for herself early in the trip, and the two wheeled it along as they discussed what Eva’s family might like for Christmas.

“This is my first time shopping for a parent,” she said.

It’s Moreau’s second year helping a child in Shop with a Cop, and Moreau said this year is a bit different. Her shopping buddy last year had a list, and the trip was over very quickly. This year, the two walk slowly, talking about hobbies and pets, or debating shopping choices.

“It’s different but it’s always good,” Moreau said.

The number of children participating has doubled since last year, said Deputy Ryan Walker, the organizer. Local schools nominated the students. The shopping trip has just one condition — $50 of the $100 must be spent on purchasing presents for immediate family.

“I’d like for them to learn a lesson of not always getting, but giving,” Walker said.

Shop with a Cop’s main goal is to give children positive interactions with law enforcement, Auten said. For many, the only time they may interact with an officer or deputy is if someone they know has been arrested, or if law enforcement was called out to break up a fight.

Shopping with officers lets them know that people in law enforcement are “just humans too, and we’re trying to help them if we can,” Auten said.

“You try to knock down walls that might be there,” Auten said.

The day started with a breakfast, and then the kids rode to Walmart in patrol cars, pulling into the parking lot with lights flashing and sirens blaring. After shopping, the group returned to the church to celebrate and wrap gifts. For the children, and the officers, it’s a day of joy and giving.

“Some of ‘em just light up like trees,” Auten said of the students.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.