Shop with a cop — ’til the kids drop

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 2021

SALISBURY — Shoppers on Dec. 11 may have been surprised to see more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles with lights on and sirens blaring pull into the parking lot of Walmart.

Confusion quickly gave way to smiles when they saw local children exit those cars accompanied by personnel from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Salisbury Police Department, Spencer Police Department and China Grove Police Department.

It was the seventh annual Shop with a Cop event, sponsored by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the Rowan County School Resource Officers Foundation. Children were nominated by school resource officers, school counselors and parents to receive a $200 Walmart gift card. They then were paired with a law enforcement officer who accompanied them throughout the morning as they shopped for presents for themselves and their families.

“It always amazes me how much of their $200 they spend on members of their family,” said Master Deputy Ryan Walker, who originated and organized the events.

Walker said he heard one mother fuss at her son for buying her and his father presents. The young man told his mother he bought the gifts because he really wanted to, Walker said,  adding “That’s when you know you’re witnessing the true meaning of the holiday season.”

Each year, Walker tries to grow the event, which started in 2015 with 10 students receiving $50 gift cards, to a high of 26 students receiving $200 gift cards in 2019. Last year, COVID restrictions prevented the in-person shopping experience. Deputy Walker and other volunteers purchased gifts for participants from wish lists they created, and families picked up the gifts at West End Plaza.

“I’m really glad we were able to get back to an in-person event this year,” said Sheriff Kevin Auten. “One of the most important aspects of the day is the opportunity for kids to get to see law enforcement in a different light than many of them have been exposed to. It’s just a wonderful day for building relationships and understanding.”

Shop with a Cop receives funding from businesses, organizations, and individual donations. This year’s event was made possible by financial support from the Tommy Jones Foundation, F&M Bank, Powles Staton Funeral Home, Walmart and attorney Ashley Andrews.

“We’re constantly seeking out grants and other funding sources,” Walker said.

He added that fundraising will start right after the first of the year for next Christmas. Tax-deductible donations for Shop with a Cop can be sent to Rowan County SRO Foundation, 1322 S. Fulton Street, Salisbury, NC 28144.