MUSCATINE — “You don’t always have the best days as a cop, but this day makes up for it,” said Officer Kim Halpain on Wednesday morning as she prepared to take her assigned child on their $250 shopping trip.
Along with being a West Liberty patrol officer, Halpain has also helped put together the Shop with a Cop event during each of its three years, and was happy to report that this year’s West Liberty Shop with a Cop event was able to raise nearly $6000.
As a result, the West Liberty police, along with several reserve officers and volunteers from the community, were able to take 19 kids to the Muscatine Walmart for a $250 Christmas shopping spree. The West Liberty schools help select the children for the event, finding the ones with unique challenges that may limit their ability to have a ‘traditional’ Christmas. The officers who help with the event also take the time to talk with their assigned child as they shop, getting to know them and learn their story.
“I think this is the happiest day of our whole year,” Halpain continued, “It’s just the best feeling all day long, a really feel good day for everyone involved, the kids and the adults.”
Even after three years of running this event, Halpain said that one thing she is continually surprised by is the generosity she sees from the kids. “It’s a nice surprise every year, and it makes you sort of stop and think about your own generosity.”
Interim Chief David Lira shared this sentiment. “Some of these kids won’t want to buy for themselves, they’ll want to buy for their siblings and family,” Lira explained. He remembers seeing boys only buying dolls for their younger sisters or kids buying diapers for their baby siblings during previous years. He recalls the moments as "incredibly heartwarming."
Lira also considered the event to be a great opportunity to give back to and reconnect with the community, and he always looks forward to getting to know the kids he shops with. “At first I think they’re sort of shy and unsure,” Lira said, “we have to reassure them that it’s fine when they ask if they can have a certain toy. But even with that, they’re still able to have a lot of fun.”
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Other officers such as Melissa Schmidt and Kris Meyer also share plenty of love for this day.
“I couldn’t even sleep last night, I was so excited,” said Schmidt, who thinks that every town should have a Shop with a Cop event. “The girl I was paired up with last year, she had never gotten to buy anything for herself, let alone her siblings and her parents, and it was just incredibly heartwarming to see her get this chance.” Being a mother of six as well as an officer, she said that seeing kids and officers interacting one-on-one as they joke around and get to know each other is all the more meaningful to her. “It helps the kids see us as human.”
By the end of their hour-long shopping trip, all 19 West Liberty kids were able to get the things they wanted for both themselves and for their families. From skateboards and bikes, to dolls and princess dresses, to art supplies and new clothes - each cart was filled with plenty of under-the-tree worthy gifts.
One standout example came from a girl named Anna, who had decided to buy giant unicorn and teddy bear plushies for her 10-month old twin cousins, along with dinosaur and Frozen puzzles for her other cousins. When asked what this day meant to her, Anna said that it meant taking time to appreciate the things that other people, like the West Liberty police, do for them. Anna also encouraged others to be nice and generous.
After their shopping, the entire group then went to Pizza Ranch for a buffet lunch. “Pizza Ranch is always super generous,” said Halpain, “Every year they charge us almost nothing to go over there. It makes for a good memory and a good time with the kids, to just sit down and share a meal with them.”
“Walmart has been very good with us to past three years, here in Muscatine. We really appreciate everything they do for us,” Lira added. While this year’s Shop with a Cop is over, Lima wanted to remind people that they’re always accepting donations for the event all year long, and hopes to take more kids next year. “The more the merrier!”