School starts: Needy kids again shop with Portland cops

It started 13 years ago, and is still going strong – ‘Shop with a Cop’ helps hundreds of youngsters; this year, in Gateway …

Early in the morning, hundreds of kids are lined up, waiting to flood inside this outer East Portland superstore, and be paired up with Portland Police Bureau officers, who will serve as their personal shopping concierges.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Before 7:00 a.m. on August 19, youths and adults were lining up outside the Gateway Fred Meyer Store.

They were there for the 13th year of “Shop with a Cop”, wherein police officers and 240 kids spend a morning together, shopping for back to school clothing.

Portland Police Bureau’s Lt. Larry Graham, Fred Meyer’s Amy Jacobs, and Police Chief Lawrence P. O’Dea III, all agree that they’re happy another “Shop with a Cop” day is underway.

“It started as a one-time project of what was called the “Lents/Brentwood-Darlington Weed & Seed Program”, recalled Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Lt. Larry Graham, who has facilitated and participated in the program since the beginning.

“The whole idea was to start up with some ‘Weed & Seed’ funding, then see if we could get enough money to keep it going, even after that program ended,” Graham recalled. “Fortunately, we were able to do that.”

The Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division, Fred Meyer, and a new partner – Camp Rosenbaum – donated funds totaling more than $36,000 for the kids’ shopping.

PPB East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team Officer Joe Young helps his young charges pick out “just the right pair” of shoes.

It’s not a give-away program, Graham emphasized. “Participating kids are identified by the Boys and Girls Club of Portland, and are selected based on their financial need and outstanding volunteer efforts in the community. These kids have worked very hard to earn this opportunity.
“The best part of it for me, as a police officer, is making connections with the community and the kids,” Graham told East Portland News.

Former PPB East Precinct Commander, and now Assistant Chief Michael Crebs, is on a shopping mission with his young companion.

Another founder of the program, Fred Meyer’s Amy Jacobs, was at the store as the doors opened, and police officers were paired with kids as they began the shopping spree.

“Fred Meyer continues to participate because we see how this makes a positive difference in kids’ lives,” Jacobs said.

PPB East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team Officer Rob Brown helps his shoppers stock up on socks.

“Kids are our future shoppers and future associates here at our company,” Jacobs went on. “But more than that, we hope this makes help make sure these kids go to school feeling confident, leaving here today with an entire new wardrobe.”

The store had special sale in the children’s section, helping to stretch each child’s shopping budget. “And, we’ll be sending them home with a backpack full of hygiene products that our stores have donated,” Jacobs added.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales talks with PPB Sunshine Division Executive Director Kyle Camberg and Fred Meyer Public Affairs Manager Melinda Merrill.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales was on hand, and he looked around and grinned as he spoke with East Portland News. “I see a lot of genuine smiles here. And there’s a lot of real, human connection with kids; youngsters who care more about what we do than what we say.”

“I appreciate everybody who’s worked together in this partnership,” Hales said. What we do today will have such a powerful impact. What we’re doing here really matters.”

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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