September 1, 2015 Owatonna and Blooming Prairie Police Departments in conjunction with the local Salvation Army did some outstanding community work with the local youth in more ways than one.
11 Officers were selected in total from both agencies were charged with taking 11 children that were underprivileged to do some shopping for school supplies and clothing. Each child was allowed to spend up to $150.00 and were partnered with an Officer to shop with.
Engaging with the Officer to shop with allows a natural bonding and a memorable, favorable experience for that young person that they will carry with them for a lifetime. As well the Officers get to know the young people that they serve in their communities and understand them better in a setting where the Officer can interact and understand the needs of the youth better than when they just respond to a call.
bloomingprairieonline quotes the Local Salvation Army’s social services director, Gina Shepherd as saying “It is really cute to see some of these tough police officers picking out cute girlie outfits,” and “I think every kid deserves that feeling of walking to class, feeling great, because they are wearing something new. It’s a confident boost.” adding “We know that some families in Steele County just have nothing, and without this program, they wouldn’t have new clothes,”
The children also ate with the officers and were given tours of the patrol cars.
The “Shop with a cop” program has run for seven years now and has been favored by Shepherd because she states “I think there is a lot of miscommunication between law enforcement and some communities,” said Shepherd. “With communication, I think there can be a bridge between that gap.”
As an example she offered a life experience from a recent “shop with a cop” event saying “We had one little girl a few years back, and her father was in and out of jail. Every time she saw a police officer, it was a scary experience,” she said. “At the beginning of the night, she was afraid, but by the end of the night she was laughing and having fun. She came up to me and said that it was the best night of her life.”
The Salvation Army relies on donations from the public and decides on a case by case basis depending on need which children it can assist and through funds that are available to them.