Another successful Shop with a Cop program went into the record books Monday as 40 Cape Coral children were escorted by police officers through the aisles at Wal-Mart picking up holiday gifts for family members and themselves.
"I think this is one of the best programs we have," said Cape Coral Police public affairs officer Sgt. Dana Coston. "It's a way to spend time with the kids and get to know each other in a positive way."
Shop with a Cop is an extension of Cape PD's Do The Right Thing program that recognizes youngsters for making good decisions and positive actions. It's the 11th year for the Shop with a Cop program, which made a special effort this year to attract "first time" candidates.
Cape Coral Police Capt. Lisa Barnes helps Brooke Holley, 9, look for a Christmas present for a family member.
"We received 80 applications this year," said Cape PD community outreach coordinator Joy Nyack. "Forty were chosen to go shopping, but the other applicants received gifts that were delivered to their homes over the weekend."
The day started at 8 a.m. for the 40 shoppers, who were picked up by officers in police cruisers. All gathered at Perkins Restaurant on Del Prado for a buffet style breakfast. From there the group went to the nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter.
"One woman in Wal-Mart was so moved when she saw what we were doing that she started handing out $20 bills to the kids," said Coston. "Another man asked what he could do to help out, too. Things like that happens almost every year."
When the shopping was done, the group returned to "Santa's Workshop" set up inside Cape Police headquarters to enjoy a pizza lunch and wrap presents.
About 20 corporate sponsors make Shop with a Cop possible with generous donations. Pizza, beverages and wrapping supplies all were donated as well.
Shoppers were given gift cards to purchase items for siblings and other family members as well as a gift card to spend on themselves.
"It's sometimes harder to get them to buy something for themselves," said Coston. "They always are more interested in getting their family something, not so much for themself."
Members of the local chapter of the Defenders Motorcycle Club, several of whom are retired Cape officers, and some civilians assisted at "Santa's Workshop." Officers escorted their shoppers and their bags of gifts back home again.
"It was very successful, I thought," said Nyack. "This was my first one. Things went well with no incidents and we got some positive feedback."