January 20, 2022

Covering the toy beat

Officers assist children as part of Shop with a Cop

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

Cortland Deputy Chief David Guerrera helps Charlotte Mack, 6, of Cortland, shop for Christmas presents Wednesday at Walmart in Cortlandville. Cortland police raised about $6,000 to help bring Christmas to 40 kids in its Shop with a Cop program.

Six-year-old Charlotte Mack had a list. She checked it twice. And again. And again. She told the deputy police chief exactly who was nice.

“Her list is bigger for her family than for herself,” said Deputy Chief David Guerrera, Charlotte’s guide, assistant, chauffeur and style adviser at Shop with a Cop Wednesday at Walmart in Cortlandville.

Charlotte had $150 and a list: seven siblings, a grandmother, an aunt. She knew exactly what she wants under the tree. She did her research online; she even knew the prices. If you know her, you’d better watch out. Definitely don’t cry.

Cortland police raised about $6,000 over the year to help 40 children have a Christmas they otherwise might not have. Each kid got $150 with a simple directive, said organizer Patrolman Adam Troyer: Splurge, but buy a gift for someone else.

Charlotte bought many. She chose practical things, Guerrera noted. Waterproof winter gloves for her brothers, pants for her aunt and a cross-body purse for her older sister. When she saw the pink tie-dyed purse, she decided to buy a matching one for herself. Grandma got a picture frame that she can put a photo of Charlotte in.

Charlotte lives with her grandmother now, since her mother died, said Guerrera, himself a father.

And he put his foot down, too. Or at least he tried. Charlotte wanted a bit of make-up for herself.

“My daughter doesn’t wear make-up and she’s 18!” Guerrera said.

Charlotte put her foot down harder. It was her list. Guerrera, elf that he was, trooped across the store to make sure she got exactly the lip gloss and clear sparkle shadow she wanted.

Part of the plan, Troyer said, is to create a relationship between kids and cops. The rest of it is just to give kids a Christmas.

The half dozen officers dressed in Santa hats volunteered during their time off to take the kids. Officer Ken Bush brought police dog Lummel along. The children arrived in a parade from Beaudry Park to Walmart, lights and sirens flashing. Sgt. Anthony Natoli even let the kids press the siren and light buttons in his patrol vehicle after they parked.

Elsewhere in the store, 9-year-old Jaylynn Hopkins was in the toy department with officers Bush and Kim Lawrence. The miniature dolls looked really good. “Some of them change color!” she said. For her toddler sister, Hopkins picked out a baby doll.

After Charlotte gathered her gifts and between slices of pizza at a party at Beaudry Park, she made sure to thank Guerrera.

His smile was visible from under his mask and across the room.