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Cop Shop Helps Meet Need
Thirty or so police officers and twice as many volunteers accompanied some needy youngsters on Thursday in the annual shopping spree for winter clothes known as 'Shop With A Cop.'

Stanislaus County Sheriff's patrol cars picked up the children and brought them to the doorstep of Kohl's store in the Crossroads Shopping Center about 4 p.m. Some got the thrill of riding in the black armored car of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

An hour of shopping financed by donations from the officers, their families and friends saw the shoppers loaded down with purchases of coats, shirts, shoes, sweaters and other clothes to handle the current chilly months.

"I got new pants, just like the ones I have on," said Juan Nuno.

"Look at these shoes, these fancy sneakers," added 11-year-old Efrain Aguilera.

Riverbank Sheriff's Deputy Jesus Sigala, who again organized the event this year, said 35 children from 11 families were served this time. Numbers were up compared with 18 youngsters in the event's first year and 24 in 2010.

"We aimed to spend at least $100 on each child but the amount varied," he said.

And even when they were on scene for the event, people were still willing to give.

"That was nice," he added later. "Some lady walking out of the store, I didn't know her, stopped me and gave us extra money."

After the shopping excursion, officers and volunteers transported the children to the Riverbank Community Center to be reunited with their parents, enjoy a pizza party, receive gifts and have photographs taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

"It's important the community knows we are here to serve them. It's humbling to be the sheriff in a community that wants to give back so much," said Sheriff Adam Christianson, thanking staff that helped organize the event such as Captain of Operations Tim Beck (once Riverbank police chief), local Community Service Officer Gina Reno and Deputy Sigala.

Sigala said the children are chosen on the recommendation of police officers who come across their families in the course of their duties and know their financial situation; on the advice from teachers, office staff and other employees at local schools; and through word of mouth from agencies like Riverbank Christian Food Sharing and St. Vincent de Paul's at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church.

Business donors for the event included Kohl's, Round Table Pizza, Starbucks and Home Depot, Sigala noted.