Cops assist back-to-school shopping spree

See what happens when the “Shop with a Cop” program pairs Portland Police officers with needy kids …

Cha-cha the Clown makes a balloon for Matthew Cunningham, a student at Metropolitan Learning Center, here shopping with Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The week before school started, on August 27, off-duty Portland police officers started filling in the parking lot of the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer store on S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses, to participate in the “Shop with a Cop” annual program.

On this special morning each year, less fortunate – but deserving – young students are paired off with Portland Police Bureau officers to “shop” for back-to-school clothing and supplies which their families could not otherwise afford.

One of the first personal shopping assistants to appear at this, the sixth year of the program, was Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer.

“‘Shop with a Cop’ is one of the highlights of my summer,” Sizer grinned. “It’s fun to help the kids get ready to go back to school, and it’s an excellent opportunity to have positive interaction with young people. As an adult, I am aware of the many opportunities I had growing up. Shop with a Cop helps these kids start the new school year with dignity.”

With police officers as their “personal shopping assistants”, 140 young people get to choose the clothing and supplies to outfit them for the new year.

Community participation required
Southeast Precinct’s Sgt. Larry Graham – one of the originators of the program – reminded us that the kids and the families participating in this program are required to make a positive impact in the community.

“They have accomplished this in a variety of ways including, completing Gang Resistance Education and Training Families or volunteering to help in their neighborhoods,” noted Graham.

Yuriy, Daniel, and Max are doing some shoe shopping, with the help of Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs.

East Precinct Commander lends his expertise
Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs was also at the head of the line to help youngsters shop.

Professionally, he volunteers every year to set a good example for his officers; personally, Crebs said that the event has special meaning to him as a father.

“I have children of my own; fortunately, I’m able provide for them,” explained Crebs. “I see how important it is to my kids to be able to have the supplies and clothing they need to be able to feel they fit in with others at school. “It’s important for these young men and women to have the same thing. It gives him a additional opportunity to be successful in school this year.”

In addition to boosting the youngsters’ self-esteem, the event helps promote understanding between the police bureau and the community, Crebs added.

“Most times, the first time a child sees the police up close is when they’re giving their parent a traffic ticket or arresting them. But, when the police, as an organization, to do things like this, it can only improve relationships in the future.”

Kelsi and Marlene team up with ROSE CDC Executive Director, Nick Sauvie, for their shopping excursion.

Helps build a stronger community
Another “personal shopper” this year was Nick Sauvie, Executive Director of ROSE Community Development Corporation.

“ROSE is one of the founding agencies for this event,” Sauvie reminded us, an organization known for providing top-quality housing for families of reduced means throughout SE Portland.

“What it’s really about is helping the families who live in the housing we help provide become more successful. We’re working to build a stronger community.”

To Sauvie, “Shop with a Cop” is much more than an obligation of his position. “We do a lot of things that are good at ROSE, but this event is at the top, in terms of how heart-warming it is to be involved in the project.”

Sellwood resident and Gateway Keystone Kop Kevin Minkoff, CPA, aids Woodmere student Julia in finding just the right back-to-school clothing – with the help of Southeast Precinct School Resource Officer Tracy Ballew.

Even Keystone Kops help out
Seen towering above the clothing racks we spotted Sellwood resident Kevin Minkoff, CPA, who frequently performs with the Gateway Keystone Kops. He was certainly the most unusual policeman at the event; he was dressed as a Keystone Kop, as he helped SE Precinct School Resource Officer Tracy Ballew.

When we suggested he wasn’t a real police officer, Minkoff countered, “A cop is a cop, right? The idea is to help out these kids – and have some fun. The Gateway Keystone Kops are doing both here today.”

Helping out are Randy Jones, food manager; Amy Jacobs, assistant store director; Tom Shea, store director; and Merrie Backer, apparel manager – at Fred Meyer.

Helping future citizens, employees and shoppers
Amy Jacobs, assistant store director at Johnson Creek Fred Meyer, said she’s happy they were able to help out 140 kids at the event.

“This event is my passion,” confided Jacobs, as cops and kids swirled around her while shopping. “It’s so great to see the kids with big smiles on their faces. I think they’ll feel more confident when they go to school wearing new clothes, new shoes, and have the supplies they need.”

Why does this mass-merchandiser participate in the event, year after year?

“Fred Meyer and his wife were big believers in helping the community; we’re carrying on their tradition,” Jacobs replied. “And, these kids are our future citizens, leaders, employees, and shoppers.”

The event is a joint effort of the Portland Police Bureau, Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland, ROSE CDC, and Fred Meyer.

Off to help more youngsters, Commander Crebs and Chief Sizer rush out to meet their newly-found friends.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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