The shoppers’ faces at Cortlandville’s Walmart on Saturday showed a mixture of confusion and curiosity when six Cortland police officers entered the store with 10 children.
No, the youngsters did not shoplift.
Quite the opposite.
The children joined officers from the Cortland Police Department during the Shop with a Cop event.
Children were given a budget of $150 to buy anything they wanted as long as they purchased at least one item for a family member, said Jesse Abbott, the department’s community oriented policing officer.
“It’s always an exciting day,” Abbott said. “It’s just as much fun for the officers as it is for the children.”
The event, in its second year, had 15 children shop on Saturday in two groups to help with social distancing. An additional 15 children will shop on Tuesday.
One other change was that a pizza party, which occurred for each group after they shopped last year, had to be postponed, potentially to the summer, Abbott said.
About 70 children were nominated but Abbott could afford to take only 30 — until an anonymous donor stepped in to provide $6,000 in funding for the other 40 children. Abbott is still planning on when and how to get those 40 shopping.
“It’s a great opportunity, especially this year,” said Victoria Hall. “Everything is so hard with COVID, so this was a blessing.”
Hall, who went shopping with her 9-year-old son, Emmitt Hall and her 11-year-old nephew, Jason Hubert, said she has faced financial struggles this year not being able to work all the shifts she’d normally be scheduled to as a certified nursing assistant because she has needed to stay home with Hall and Hubert, who have varying mental health issues.
“I didn’t want them to feel like their Christmas wasn’t that great,” she said.
The boys, who bought PlayStation 4 video games and an electronic basketball backboard, enjoyed the police escort, Victoria Hall said.
Sarah Adams, mother of Jasper, 6, and Trinity, 4, Thornton said her children have had a tough last few years with the death of their father in 2019 and the death of their grandmother this year.
She said she nominated them as she wanted to show that people care about them.
“I really just wanted them to know that just because you’re going through a hard time, the community is there for us,” she said.
The two bought dolls and action figures.
Abbott hoped the event would help teach the kids to think of others as they had to buy an item for a family member and to show what community oriented policing looks like.
“A lot of people in the community have taken on community policing and know the importance of it,” he said. “It’s really building the relationships between our city youth and our officers.”