WEST LIBERTY — Ten children ages 8-14 will walk into the Muscatine Walmart on Wednesday morning with a police escort.
Each child will have $250 in hand to spend on gifts for themselves and their families. The West Liberty Police Department is taking part in Shop with a Cop.
As the holiday season approaches, many families will struggle to pay monthly bills like car notes and rent. Shop with a Cop is aimed at helping those in need make the holidays a little brighter.
Even though this is West Liberty PD’s first year putting together a Shop with a Cop, Police Chief Kary Kinmonth has been doing this since 2004 in communities such as Mitchellville and Grinnell, Iowa.
“This is the first year West Liberty has done it so we’ve had to kind of get it off the ground a little bit,” Kinmonth said. “For the last 12 years I’ve been involved with the program to some degree and so this was one of my goals to get a program like this going.”
Kinmonth explained that every department does it differently. West Liberty is choosing a smaller group of kids in hopes of dramatically impacting their holidays.
“We’re a little bit unique. We try to make a pretty significant impact,” Kinmonth said. “I know some places will take 100 kids and give them 50 bucks. And that’s fantastic. I’m not saying anything against that. But we like to really make it a big day of it and big impact.”
He said that other than a call to Muscatine Walmart, the biggest donor, Kinmonth said that the department did not do any soliciting for donations for the event. With that in mind, he said that West Liberty’s Shop with a Cop has plenty of room to grow.
“And we want to do more each year,” Kinmonth said. “I want to see this program grow. And it has done so in every community I’ve been in. When people see the good in what we are doing here, I expect to have more people seek me out to try and be a part of it.”
In the past, he has seen kids buy everyday items with the money such as hats, coats and gloves. One time, Kinmonth was surprised when a kid pushed a kart forward that was piled high with $60 worth of steaks.
“He and his family hadn’t had steaks before,” Kinmonth said. “I thought that was so cool.”
WLPD worked with the school district to find students and families that they determine to need the most help. He said he has learned a lot about the work the department is involved in through his participation in the event and events like it.
“Some of the things that we take for granted are really day-to-day struggles, you know,” Kinmonth said. “It’s difficult for people to come up with a few bucks for gas money sometimes. Let alone feeding their family and taking care of everything.”
In the end, Shop with the Cop does not just benefit the children. Kinmonth said it impacts officers too.
“It’s really an impactful day for all my officers and everyone involved,” Kinmonth said. “Sometimes you lose sight of the struggles that people have. This is my favorite day of the year as a law enforcement officer in terms of the work we do for community outreach. We do a lot of cool stuff, but for me, this is the number one thing we do. This is my favorite project all year.