An event with at least a decade of history in Juneau returned to being fully in-person as the Juneau Police Department held its annual “Shop with a Cop.”
Funded by the Alaska Peace Officers Association, 37 children from 20 local families were paired up with a variety of uniformed law enforcement officers to shop for their families on Saturday morning.
“We’ve done this for at least 10 years. We picked up the idea from a department down south” said Bruce Bowler, member of the APOA, who dressed up as Santa Claus for the event. “It gives kids the chance to meet law enforcement in a positive environment.”
Last year marked a departure from the format as officers shopped without the kids as a mitigation measure. Many welcomed the return to bringing the children shopping with them.
“It’s my first year participating,” said Patrol Sergeant Chris Russell of the Alaska State Troopers before the event. “I can’t wait.”
Personnel from JPD, troopers, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Department of Corrections volunteered to pair up with one or more children to shop for children’s families, riding in their patrol vehicles to Fred Meyer to shop. While they did that, said JPD’s public safety manager Erann Kalwara, officers talked to the kids, to find out what the children themselves wanted for the holiday. Children were nominated from families in the community.
“Part of thing is to make sure these kids have things to share with their families,” Kalwara said. “But the other part is to go shopping with the kids, to establish that positive relationship.”
Once the gifts were bought, the children also received a bag of food donated by Fred Meyer and spiral hams bought by APOA to bring home to their families. Law enforcement personnel and assistants, including volunteers from the Juneau Citizen’s Patrol, the TSA and the Alaska Department of Law wrapped the gifts for delivery.
“The food went home with the kids on Saturday. Some of the gifts were delivered that day. Some were delivered yesterday. There’s a handful that will get delivered today,” Kalwara said. “It went great. I think we had more help in this station this year than I ever remember. We had a ton of people that came back and helped with the wrapping.”
Fred Meyer donated the food, designated specific checkout lanes for the event and offered a 20% discount on all purchases made for the event.
“Last year was tough on the entire community. This year Fred Meyer has really come out for the program” said APOA treasurer Eric Gazdig in an interview. “Fred Meyer is donating the dry goods and we’re buying the protein.”
The entire program was funded by donations to the APOA, Kalwara said.
“It’s so helpful that we had other organizations help us,” Kalwara said. “People contributed supplies, wrapping paper and money.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or email@example.com.