For more than a quarter of a century, the Muscatine Police Department (MPD) has helped children in need during their annual Shop with a Cop event. This year, the event served 110 Muscatine Community School District students, ensuring they had a good holiday season this year.
The MPD held their 2019 Shop with a Cop event at Walmart in Muscatine on December 16th and 17th. Participating kids enjoyed a pizza party, selfies, and goody bags with Santa before getting to shop with one of the MPD officers or another volunteer. Students could spend up to $150 on anything they wanted.
Officer Whitni Peña of the MPD found that typically, the children most enjoy the experience of shopping for themselves, something many of them rarely get to do. “Some of these children are so appreciative of the shopping and the chance to buy whatever they want for themselves,” she said. “One of the girls I personally took shopping, I [asked] what do you want to buy? And she said, ‘I don’t know I have never done this before,’” she added.
For others though, getting an opportunity to shop for friends and family makes their day. “We also had a few students this year that chose to buy presents for family members,” reported Peña. “Nothing in our rules says they can’t—we always just ask that they are able to still buy a few toys or items for themselves.”
Peña personally finds that getting to help children who could benefit from the event truly makes it meaningful for her each year. “I just enjoy seeing the smiling faces. I also enjoy working with the schools to pick the children. . .. Shop with a Cop isn’t just based off financial needs. It could be based off socialization and making sure the child feels comfortable in large groups. It could also be that maybe the child has had a negative perception of law enforcement and the school feels that having them participate in this event could change their mind.”
This year, the MPD’s Shop with a Cop program spent more than $16,500 ensuring children with any sort of need had a fun holiday outing, all of which came from donations. While Shop with a Cop does have some larger donors, such as the annual Rockin’ on Sycamore concerts, they could not do what they do without smaller donations as well. “If someone would like to donate to Shop with a Cop, we have a locked donation box in the lobby of the police department, or they can contact the police department for other ways to donate, elaborated Peña.