Cops help record number of needy kids get ready for school

See how this annual “Shop With a Cop” event has grown, over the last eight years. Who had more fun: Cops or kids? Take a look at this delightful back-to-school story … hardly marred by the zany antics of a pair of shoplifters, in a store with 50 cops …

A crowd gathers in front of the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer awaiting the start of the 2010 Shop With a Cop event. The Mounted Patrol is there to greet the kids, also.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The annual “Shop With a Cop” event has grown, over the last eight years – helping worthy but disadvantaged kids to have better start to their school year. It’s been held in late summer, for the past eight years, at the Johnson Creek Boulevard Fred Meyer store on S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Although this year’s event was marred by the zany antics of a pair of shoplifters, in a store with 50 cops, the kids shopping with the officers hardly noticed, though store security did.

Look at all these happy faces, as cops and kids gather in front of the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer for a group photo, as the 2010 Shop With a Cop event begins.

“Shop With a Cop” began this year at 7 am on Wednesday, August 25, as the area outside the main doors of store teemed with kids, parents, police officers, and community service organization volunteers.

It was difficult to tell who was more excited about what was about to unfold: The police officers, or the children for whom they would be shopping.

Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Larry Graham reminds officers that these kids earned the right to participate.

Students rewarded for helping their community
Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Larry Graham – he helped start the annual charity program – said that about 50 officers volunteered to take the school kids on a shopping spree for clothing and school supplies needed to begin the school year.

“A good thing about this,” Graham told us, “is that this isn’t just a giveaway. Being chosen to participate is a reward for each of these students, who have worked in service to their community.”

While the Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division and its Izzy’s Kids School Clothing Program lends a hand with the project, Graham emphasized, “It is the support and behind-the-scenes work is done by Fred Meyer’s volunteers, who put this together – led by Amy Jacobs – that makes this happen. And, without the continuing support of the Boys & Girls Club and Rose Community Development Corp., this would not have continued for the last eight years.”

Sgt. Larry Graham, Teisha Parchment of Rose CDC and Libby Lescalleet from the Boys & Girls Clubs listen while Amy Jacobs, the event organizer for Fred Meyer Stores, tells how this event has grown.

Students benefit from $30,000 shopping spree
As the kids lined up – their parents provide lists of clothing sizes and needs, but must stay outside during the kids’ shopping trip – officers were given a $150 gift card per child, and calculators to help them keep a running total.

Fred Meyer’s Amy Jacobs addressed the officers, lining up at the doorway, ready to be paired with their young charges.

“Thank you again,” Jacobs said. “It has become more and more successful every year. When we started eight years ago, it was with $2,000 to serve 75 children. This year, helping just over 150 kids who will share the benefits of $30,000, today.”

Students Jessica Bickford and Sanic Paz meet Officer Doris Paisley as they set about their shopping trip.

Clearly students Jessica Bickford and Sanic Paz enjoy their shopping spree, as does Officer Doris Paisley.

As the store’s doors swung open, Portland Police Officer Doris Paisley was introduced to her shopping pals, Jessica Bickford and Sanic Paz. “My districts are usually in Southeast Portland – I’ve served the community there since 2007.”

But Paisley had little time to talk, as the youngsters first start looking at jackets, then shirts, and then on to shoes, as their whirlwind shop-a-thon got underway. “This is really fun, and more than that, I like the positive interaction we get to have with all these great kids,” she exclaimed.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Bill Walker checks his list of clothing needed by his youthful charges.

Soon, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Bill Walker was off, being led by two young ladies who were ready to shop.

Walker said that, while many kids look forward to school starting, others can dread it because they lack the clothing, shoes, and supplies they need – both to get a good education, and to “fit in” with the other kids.

Shoplifters hope to ‘cash in’ on event
While the officers were busy helping the kids, two zany shoplifters were busy helping themselves, and the Fred Meyer Security Officers were busy watching and recording what they were doing – just aisles away from where dozens of cops were helping needy kids get new clothing.

Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Lt. Kelli Sheffer reported that, “Store Security helped officers arrest 30-year-old Jason Vantress and 20-year-old Shane Alexander. The suspects who were arrested admitted later that they thought they could get away with it, because the officers were distracted helping the children.”

The arrest indeed did not distract the kids and their mentors, who completed their purchases that morning.

More than the tangible goods the kids receive, East Precinct Commander Bill Walker said that “Shop with a Cop” is important, because it provides the Bureau with a good mentoring opportunity.

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Investigator Officer Chris Johnson confers with East Precinct Commander Bill Walker.

“Here, you see dozens of police officers who happy to spend time with these young people,” commented Walker. “This event can be a very different environment that which they normally see police officers. It gives these young people a positive memory of citizens interacting with police.”

Walker reached for his calculator, and started adding up the youngsters’ selections. Then, he looked up and said, “Deep down inside, it really touches me, when a student comes up and says that they remember me from an event like this. That’s better than any other accolade that you could get as a police officer.”

At a Fred Meyer checkstand, Tim Koontz, store’s assistant director, and event organizer Amy Jacobs, show off some of the backpacks to be given to students – each loaded with school supplies and personal hygiene items, to help them get a great start to their school year.

©2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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