Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

Children get into the spirit of giving with Shop with a Cop


Daniel Thompson

Local children and emergency services took over the local Shopko for the annual Shop with a Cop event on December 14.

Sirens blared down the streets as the vehicles of the local emergency services climbed up over highway 71 towards Shopko packed with excited children, ready to kick off the third annual Shop with a Cop event the morning of December 14.

The sun had barely risen in the sky and the wind was fiercely blowing through the area as kids piled out of the vehicles in the Shopko parking lot, bouncing with excitement for the shopping spree to ensue as Kimball Police Chief Darren Huff directed the crowd to the front of the store, making sure that each group of kids connected with their chaperone.

When the doors of Shopko finally opened, a flood of kids and adults entered the store, breaking apart to run down the different sections and filling the store with excited chatter.

Children ran through the store pushing around carts chaperones from the police department, sheriff's department, ambulance service and the Kimball Volunteer Fire Department tallied the cost of each of the children's purchases, making sure that they fell within the budget allotted for each child.

The program was a collaboration of sorts between the different members of the emergency services throughout the town along with Kimball Public Schools, with Jim Reeves, who serves as the Guidance Counselor at Mary Lynch Elementary, taking up the brunt of picking the students to participate in the program, according to Kimball Police Chief Darren Huff.

"He was really instrumental and involved in putting together the list and everything as well," Huff said.

Huff, now in his second year participating in the program, feels that the event went off without a hitch, giving credit to the Shopko Hometown staff who helped make it happen.

"I was blown away, because not only did they give us a big discount on our cards, but they also made donations themselves, the corporate office did. It was really cool. They're in our community and from my understanding, the way they work is that once they get into a community, they want to be a part of it so that was awesome. That kind of showed working with Robert Black, who is the new manager up there. He was amazing to work with in getting this thing going. We're fortunate to be able to partner with them," Huff said.

Huff was also very impressed with the level of support that the program received from the local fire department and the community as a whole, along with the support of the Bridgeport Police Department in the form of two officers that came to help chaperone children around the store.

"Everybody that's been involved all the way down to the Women's Auxiliary for the fire department, they provided wrapping party and wrapping materials to do the gift wrapping, and, of course, the firemen with letting us use the fire hall and cooking breakfast and staying there all morning to provide the breakfast and cleanup and all of that. It was just great," Huff said.

Whether it be Aaron Gillming, who excitedly stuffed his cart with Nerf toys because they're one of his "favorite things in all the world" or Conner Cluff who bought a green alligator chew toy for his dog because he "wanted to give something to someone no one has given a present to", the Shop with a Cop program serves as a spotlight into what big the hearts even the smallest members of our community have during the holidays, according to Huff.

"It makes me feel really good to know that they want to get for everybody in their family including their pets. That's awesome. I have noticed that, like with the kids I had, I had a young girl and she wanted to buy jewelry for mom, and I told her, 'Well get what you want to get for her.' A lot of them want to buy for their family members before they get something for them," Huff said.

For Huff, the selflessness that the kids involved in the program demonstrate during each event shows that the program is being successful in its goal to promote a sense of giving instead of receiving during the holidays.

"That's what Shop with a Cop really tries to promote: to be in the spirit of giving and understand that giving to others and the ability to give to someone else is really what the Christmas season is all about. We try to really push that. I think it has been successful," Huff said.

Though the third annual event just wrapped this weekend, Huff and his fellow organizers are already looking ahead to next year, planning events in order to raise money in advance as to not face a time crunch in November like they have in previous years.

"What we're going to do next year, we're going to do a 50/50. That means that the school is going to do a donation pot, I guess. They'll pass a hat or something around at the game. They're going to do two home games, and everybody will put some money into it. At the end of the game, I assume, they'll pick a winner and half of it will go to a winner and half of it will go to Shop with a Cop," Huff said.

Along with the collaboration with the school, Erin Heidemann will also be holding an event during the Fair and Rodeo next summer in order to raise funds for the program, according to Huff.

"We'll do something again for Fair and Rodeo, and Erin was talking about doing a pie in the face rather than a dunk thank, because I guess somebody got hurt in the dunk tank this last year. We'll do that, and that'll earn some money. Some other people came up with some ideas to earn money throughout the year so that we don't have to crunch and push to get the funds right at December for Shop with a Cop," Huff said.

Daniel Thompson

Kimball Police Department's Dectective Andy Bramer helps his group stash their gifts into their shopping cart.

Huff states that the reason behind figuring out different ways of raising funds and different venues for the program to be promoted is in the hopes of keeping the program part of Kimball for many years to come, offering local children a way to give to those that they care about that they may not have had otherwise.

"I don't know many communities like ours that are doing something like this. I see it being a program that will last for years just because of the positive way the community feels about it. It's something they really love, and they either want to contribute or they want to be a part of it somehow. A couple people that participated their first time this year said, 'You can sign me up for next year. I want to do it again next year.' It makes me feel good that people feel that way," Huff said.


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