Local law enforcement take grade-school students out to ‘Shop with a Cop’
MADAWASKA, Maine — Local law enforcement teamed up to spread a little Christmas cheer by taking children along to Shop with a Cop.
Shop with a Cop is a nationwide, annual event with the goal of providing students who have limited means the ability to shop for their families for Christmas in the spirit of giving. A main objective of the event is to foster positive relationships between the youth of the community and local law enforcement.
Students between kindergarten and sixth grade are chosen to shop for presents at local stores. The presents purchased are then delivered by the officers to the students’ houses after the event.
Madawaska’s Shop with a Cop was started in 2015 by Police Chief Ross Dubois, making this year it’s sixth installment.
“We were trying to come up with some kind of outreach program for the children and it was around Christmas time and I saw other police departments across the U.S. were doing this and I thought it would be something we could do that would work well for us,” Dubois said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s event looked a little different with only one student chosen to participate. This year, things are back in full swing and the local Marden’s was swarmed with police and kids looking to spread some Christmas cheer.
“It’s nice to get back how we were a couple years ago,” said Officer Lucas Gendreau, a Shop with a Cop veteran.
The town raised enough money for 10 students who were chosen by the Madawaska School Department and then paired off with an officer from either the Sheriff’s Department, Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol or the Madawaska Police Department.
At the start of the day, law enforcement officers drove to Madawaska Elementary School to meet their assigned students, then gathered onto the bus to start their shopping excursion.
As the students walked through the aisles picking out presents for their families, the officers paid attention to what the children were interested in for themselves and got it for them as a present on the side.
Once the shopping was complete, law enforcement officers and students hopped back on the bus for a ride down to the police station to wrap up the gifts and were met with a pizza party and a special guest: Santa Claus.
“Ross has been reaching out and well, he’s got a direct line to the North Pole so he knows how to get ahold of me,” Santa said. “This is a remarkable job that they do every year, the outreach that they do, the comradery, the kids are excited … this is a very nice thing that they do and I am honored to be part of the tradition.”
Officer Dennis Picard, father of four daughters, took part in Shop with a Cop for the first time this year. He volunteered to take a young girl who had three other siblings knowing he would be able to empathize with her and identify what kinds of things she may want for her family.
“I think we make great in-roads to the kids who may see us involved in arriving at their homes for official business,” Picard said. “This is a way for the kids to see us Off-Duty as dads or brothers with a great big smile on our faces too.”
Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen was among the officers volunteering their time for Shop with a Cop, but says there may be room for improvement.
“This is great for little kids, but the kids that get missed more often than not are the teenagers because they’re hard to buy for, I think. It’s harder, but I think we should be concentrating on them too,” Gillen said. “But that’s something we can work on in the future hopefully.”