A young girl proudly held up a purse and said it would be the perfect gift for her mother because she could carry her money and other items when she shops.
Thirty Blaine children from six elementary schools in the Anoka-Hennepin, Centennial and Spring Lake Park school districts got a better understanding of the famous phrase “It is better to give than receive” when they were each given an $85 Target gift card that they used to buy for Christmas gifts for family members.
Blaine police officers, community service officers, police reserves and police explorers drove the 30 students from their respective elementary schools to the Blaine Target store around 3 p.m. Dec. 4. For the rest of the afternoon, the kids checked items off their Christmas shopping list and wrapped the items with the assistance of Blaine officers and Target staff, and they grabbed a bite to eat at the food court.
“I think it’s great. It’s way better than Christmas for me,” said Charlie Bloomer, who is in his fourth year with the Blaine police explorers and participated in this event last year.
This was the third year that the Blaine Police Department has partnered with the Blaine Target store for the Shop with a Cop program, according to Officer Michelle Moore, who coordinates this initiative. The 30 students chosen by the schools are in families who are struggling financially.
According to Moore, the Target corporate office donated $2,000, the local Blaine Target store donated $200, Blaine city employees chipped in over $300, the Blaine Police Federation donated $150 and an individual citizen donated $50.
Only a few kids had money left over on their gift cards, Moore said. Most of the Blaine officers volunteered to pay out of their own pocket when somebody’s items totaled over $85.
Beyond the $85 gift cards for all 30 kids, about $200 was set aside for items such as gloves, mittens, underwear, socks, coats and food.
The Blaine Target also donated over 60 meals to the kids and volunteers, Moore said.
“Target is committed to our community,” said Katusa Lee, the executive team leader of asset programs at the Blaine Target.
Northpoint Elementary School Counselor Kate Fandrey asked co-workers for suggestions on which children should be able to shop with a Blaine cop at Target. Some were named by more than one teacher. Five students from Northpoint found out two weeks in advance that they were chosen.
“When I told the kids they get to go shopping, the anticipation was sky high,” Fandrey said.
The five who went on the shopping trip have built strong relationships and are excited when they see each other in the school hallway, she said.
One of Blaine Police Officer Ben Johnson’s favorite memories of Shop with a Cop happened last year. One girl had some money left over after buying gifts for her family. When Johnson told her she could buy something for herself, her face lit up.
Police Officer Brian Givens has participated in Shop with a Cop each of the three years and said it is a great opportunity for police to connect with kids. Most of the participants are volunteering their own time and he said a lot of thanks needs to go to Moore for coordinating this.
Moore’s favorite part is seeing kids get things for family members that they normally wouldn’t be able to do. In the previous two years, Moore recalled one child who picked up a Christmas tree. Another student just brought a grocery list. This year, a toy car, scarf, books and DVDs were some examples of items the kids got for parents or siblings.
“It just brings out the giving in everyone,” Moore said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org