Students get to ‘Shop with a Cop’
The program, now in its second year in Kleberg County, is a nationally known event where law enforcement officials volunteer their time to help a child shop for much needed items. Ken Starrs, Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force assistant commander, began the program 15 years ago in Corpus Christi and he was instrumental in bringing the program to Kingsville last year.
Law enforcement officers from various agencies greeted boys and girls as they stepped off the bus in front of Wal-Mart. Students shook officers’ hands and greeted them shyly. The students were then paired with a law enforcement officer who assisted them with their shopping. The boys shopped with male officers while the girls shopped with female officers. There were also city and county volunteers on-hand to assist the officers and children with shopping needs.
Isaiah Molina, 11, was getting help looking for socks from Cmdr. Willie Vera from the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force.
Vera said the program is also a teaching tool for kids.
“Most of these kids’ experience with law enforcement has been negative. With this program, we hope the kids get a positive image of law enforcement,” Vera said.
Shop with a Cop is a nonprofit organization within the Fraternal Order of Police,
Corpus Christi Regional Lodge No. 27. Funding for the program is achieved through fundraising and donations from businesses and individuals. During the event Thursday, several “Secret Santas” reached out to law enforcement officers who were shopping with students and made donations on the spot.
Starrs said every year the number of students they help increases.
“Last year, we helped 360 students and this year it has gone up,” he said.
He said they were very grateful for all the support that has been received.
“We are always working hard to raise funds,” he said. “We are very grateful for the support we have received from the Winter Texans of SeaWind RV Park, the Kleberg County employees and the City of Kingsville employees.”
The students are chosen for the program with the help of local school district counselors and administration, as well as by recommendation of law enforcement. Over 85 percent of children who participate in the program are members of families with an annual income at the poverty level, have two to eight siblings, and many are raised by extended family members.
“The kids may spend up to $100, with 80 percent on necessities and 20 percent on a gift, if they like,” Starrs said.
Basic necessities include school clothes, underclothes, shoes, toothbrushes and coats, and then students may move on to other things like toys or electronics.
Vera said it is great to see the kids’ character come out in their shopping.
“The kids show their humility and the love they have for their siblings when you see they don’t spend it all on themselves but instead choose something for their little brother or sister,” he said.
Starrs said this year Riviera students will participate in the Shop with a Cop program for the first time, which will be held on Monday, Dec. 17.
For more information or to make a donation, contact Tara Mylett, chairperson Shop with a Cop program, at (361) 442-4787 or mail donations to: Shop with a Cop, P.O. Box 440; Corpus Christi, Texas 78403.