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Christmas Spirit Bright At Shop With A Cop
The Community Service Officers from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department main office and Riverbank Police Services substation were shopping for twins that made it a little challenging but they were up for it. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL

The Christmas spirit could be felt this past Wednesday during the annual Shop with a Cop event as law enforcement and volunteers shopped with youngsters at Kohls in the Crossroads Shopping Center. There were about 40 kids that received a shopping spree for essentials and afterwards a pizza party where the joy, warmth, and spirit of Christmas endured.

“I think we learn every year and we try to make it better and better,” said Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour. “We are trying to expand as much as we can every year and build upon it. The smiles on the kids’ faces, makes it all worth it.”

The law enforcement vehicles lined the front of the department store with lights on causing a bit of stir last week as shoppers and people drove by with expressions of wonderment on their faces. Each year in December people always ask “what is going on” when the vehicles line the store front with lights flashing.

Riverbank Police Services has been providing families in Riverbank that are struggling during the holiday season a shopping spree for their children for over 10 years. Due to generous donations from the community, and local businesses this year they were able to expand the program to offer more kids an opportunity to shop for essentials giving everyone a limit of $250.

“Shop with a Cop is 100 percent funded through donations,” stated Ridenour. “A large amount of it is from the community of Riverbank. The citizens and residents that live here donate and the local businesses. The Sheriff’s office has associations like the K9 units donate money, the air support unit, so many different units that have come together to fund money for this program because it is so worthwhile.”

With more kids, the Chief explained that the logistics become a bit more challenging like the need for more patrol cars and more deputies but in the end it is worth it.

Deputy Buck was new to the program this year and shopped for a three-year-old boy. He said that, “it is a wonderful program. We go out there and connect with the community and make Christmas special for the kids.”

This year there were several deputies that volunteered for the program that staff did not even have to ask.

“What is interesting this year is that we had a lot of people proactively ask to volunteer this year versus us putting out the email asking for help,” added Ridenour. “We didn’t have to do that this year. We had so many volunteers that just wanted to do it this year which is great. It is the holiday season so people see what we do here and I think it is contagious and they want to be part of it.”

There were several Deputies with kids shopping around Kohls looking for certain colors and sizes in a variety of age ranges. After they grab their loot, they hit the registers and the cashiers move them through making sure they meet their limit.

“Kohls has been a great partner with us for years,” remarked Ridenour. “They always offer a discount on what we purchase and they have always been helpful. They give us Kohls cash after our purchase and then we use that to help fund our bicycle rodeo that comes up in the summer time.”

This is Deputy Maldonado’s second year participating in the program and this year he had a 15-year-old girl to shop with. He expressed that it was a good learning experience and that he was thankful that she knew what she wanted.

“The most beneficial part of this experience is the positive interaction with the kids,” noted Maldonado. “I think my favorite part is just that we are able to bring that Christmas cheer to a family that otherwise would not have it; that to me warms my heart.”

The Chief shared that at the registers the total turned into a game with the kids as they tried to guess what the total amount would be exercising some math skills.

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sergeant Juan Alanis has been participating in the Shop with a Cop event for the past 11 years. Each year he has had a different kid and this year, he and his wife had the enjoyment to shop with a 9-year-old girl that he said was very easy to shop for.

“My wife and I look forward to this,” remarked Alanis. “I like reaching out to the kids and finding out what they want they want to do when they grow up and what their favorite color is which helps us find the kind of clothes they want. Some of these kids are just happy to get the clothes. It is a great feeling knowing that you are helping them.”

After the shopping spree everyone meets up at the Community Center for a Christmas party and the gift giving continues.

The families were treated to pizza that was donated from Pizza Plus, Mountain Mikes, and Round Table. Christmas music plays and the families get to interact with special guests like Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as the Grinch.

The kids get to tell Santa what they want, take a picture and each child leaves with a wrapped present. The families were given a gift card to a local grocery store to help them with their holiday dinner.

“I think that this event is so worthwhile and we cannot do it without the community’s support and partnership,” expressed Ridenour. “Anybody that wants to donate to the program please reach out to Riverbank Police Services, call us at the police department, follow us on Facebook, donations are always welcomed. We take them year-round because again, without their support, this program cannot continue.”

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During his second year participating in Shop with a Cop, Deputy Maldonado enjoyed shopping around with this lucky youngster. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL
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Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sergeant Juan Alanis and his wife took the opportunity to capture the moment with their shopping partner and Santa and Mrs. Claus during the after-shopping pizza party at the Riverbank Community Center. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL