NBC26 is teaming up with law enforcement agencies in Brown County for the 24th annual Shop with a Cop. Our day-long donation drive on Wednesday was a final push to collect spending money for kids in need before the big shopping day.
Donors gave more than $1,400 on Wednesday, an official said.
Some friendly and familiar faces greeted shoppers as they walked through the doors of the Bay Park Square Mall Shopko store. Donors were happy to drop dollars into the collection basket.
"I can remember when I was a kid to open up Christmas presents. We didn't have a lot and I appreciated everything, so I hope they do too. You know, I'm sure they do," said Bernard Schwiner.
"I hope it makes their heart smile like mine is right now," said donor Doris Barbeau of Green Bay.
The money raised will help give 180 children, living in low income families, the chance to shop with a cop.
"Some of these kids, that's the only gifts that are under the tree is from what this program generates," explained Jedd Bradley, Community Resource Officer with the De Pere Police Department.
This Saturday, December 8th, the elementary school children will pair up with an officer or deputy. They'll eat breakfast together at McDonald's. Then, they ride buses to their local Shopko location to stroll the aisles and pick out presents for their families.
Bradley said, "In doing this for 17 years now, I've never heard a kid say, 'Well I want, I want, I want.' When they come, they have a shopping list for their little brothers, their grandma and grandpas, their moms and dads, and it's amazing to see the child that you're shopping with be so generous towards their family."
After each child spends their $140 in donated money, the officers and kids wrap the gifts as a team.
"Lot of times in law enforcement we're sent to a house, a school, a situation, because of a negative situation. To get a one-on-one connection with these kids in a positive note is huge," he explained.
"It's building relationships. It's doing a good thing. It's celebrating Christmas and it's what the season is all about," said Michelle Hansen, Manager of Public Relations and the Shopko Foundation. The retailer is the major corporate sponsor of Shop with a Cop.
Pulaski native Greg Schwiner said donating to the cause is a win-win situation.
"The police guys do a great job and I think a lot of times people got to show them that we appreciate that, because sometimes that goes unnoticed, and then if it helps the kids out too for Christmas, I think that's great."
Whether it's one small bill or a $1,000 check from sponsors like Nicolet National Bank, Bradley believes every amount makes a difference.
"This doesn't happen unless the community gets involved, so you're really starting to see the generosity of the people in Brown County."
"We're really excited to be a part of it," said Chelsea Gay, Community Reinvestment Program Coordinator for Nicolet National Bank.
During the Shop with a Cop event, each child also receives a new hat and gloves from Shopko.
Right now, Bradley said they just get by year to year. He hopes people will continue to donate, so they can reach their goal of creating a large fund to keep the program going long into the future.
If you'd still like to donate, click here.