Officers help outfit deserving kids for back-to-school

Find out why, year after year, the cops keep coming back – on their own time, and usually after a long shift – to help youngsters get a good start on the school year …

About 50 Portland Police Bureau officers – some after having worked an all-night shift – spend the morning helping these kids pick out clothing and supplies, to help them get a good start on their school year.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Back-to-school time can be exciting for kids as they anticipate a new year of learning – and showing off their new wardrobe to their friends. These fortunate students race off to their classroom, with backpacks stuffed to overflowing with all kinds of supplies.

But for others, the idea of going back to school is worrisome and stressful, because their outfits are shabby, or their hand-me-downs are ill-fitting. Many arrive in class, eager to learn, but without even stubby pencil to their name.

On September 2, for the seventh year, the Portland Police Bureau, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland, ROSE Community Development Corporation, and Fred Meyer joined in a mission to help ease disadvantaged youth back into the school year feeling confident in themselves.

Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer joins two of the event’s originators, Sgt. Larry Graham and Fred Meyer’s Amy Jacobs.

Cops as personal shoppers
“We started calling the event ‘Shop with a Cop’, and the name stuck,” smiled Portland Police Bureau Sergeant Larry Graham, who was instrumental in starting the program.

“More than ever, families are facing financial hardships, because of the downturn in the economy these days,” Graham observed. “We’re making sure these kids – all 102 of them – are getting to start off the year with brand-new clothes and supplies, on a good footing.”

Sgt. John Scruggs helps his shoppers – Marshall Campus students Valeriy and Yurry Sidorchuk – stay on budget.

Graham’s boss, Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer, agreed. “Being properly equipped to start school helps kids be ready to learn, and can help them be more successful.”

Another positive aspect of the event, Sizer noted, is that “this experience gives young people the opportunity to meet, and begin building a positive relationship with, police officers.”

“You can see our officers enjoy interacting kids in a really positive way,” added Graham, as wide-eyed kids selected items while cops pushed shopping carts laden with clothing and supplies down almost every aisle of the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer store. “I think that youngsters who feel more confident in their communities, because of this experience, will become better citizens.”

Both Yurry and Valeriy Sidorchuk earned the right to go shopping with Sgt. Scruggs by helping out with summer crafts at Rose Community Development’s Leander Court.

All benefits earned
Shop with a Cop isn’t a charity hand-out, Graham assured us. The kids and the families participating in this program are required to make a positive impact in the community. “They’ve earned the right to be here today by completing the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program, or by volunteering to help in their neighborhoods.”

Another founding participant, Amy Jacobs with Fred Meyer Stores, said she always looks forward to the event. “Year after year, Fred Meyer is pleased to be involved with the community in this meaningful way. We’re upholding Fred Meyer’s philosophy of giving back to our community. And, these children are our future shoppers, store associates, and most importantly, our future community members.”

Judging by the sergeant’s expression, it looks as if Fred Bear’s shoe selection could be a few sizes too small.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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