A caravan hit the streets of Riverbank last week that included lights, sirens, and some very special guests making a few extra special deliveries just in time for Christmas. Riverbank Police Services along with the K9 unit, bomb squad and SWAT team delivered essential goods to kids in the community through their annual Shop with a Cop program.
Although many events have been canceled due to the pandemic, Chief Ed Ridenour found it to be extremely important to continue the tradition that brings families in need warm clothes and essentials for their children.
“Shop with a Cop is such a wonderful program that provides to those who are the most in need,” stated Ridenour. “Without this program many children would go without warm clothes or clothing that fits them. The program also allows us to provide a warm meal to the families, this year we provided pizzas and soft drinks. We also included gift certificates for groceries, and for additional clothing to ensure our children and their families have a wonderful Christmas.”
For several years Riverbank Police Services has participated in the Shop with a Cop program that consists of a shopping spree for kids at Kohl’s in the Crossroads Shopping Center followed by a pizza party with presents and a visit from the Grinch and Santa and Mrs. Claus.
This year the usual festivities were not possible and with careful thought and consideration, Ridenour and his staff found a way to continue the tradition this holiday season.
“It is definitely not a small undertaking, but is a team effort,” added Ridenour. “Our Community Service Officer Neserin Harigot is the mastermind behind the program. She has worked tirelessly throughout the year fundraising, soliciting donors, identifying children in need, and coordinating the numerous volunteers to shop, wrap, and deliver the essential items, food, and toys.”
The volunteers and Deputies shopped at Kohl’s for the children earlier this month and then they delivered the items along with dinner to the families last week.
There were about 40 kids and 16 families that had the special delivery on Thursday, Dec. 17 along with hot pizza and beverages for the whole family to enjoy. The day before Harigot served 23 other families with a total of 75 kids that did not participate in the program but received a gift for them to open on Christmas.
“There were many stories to share,” noted CSO Harigot. “The main thing is that COVID-19 hit a lot of families in different ways. Some of the people who were selected had to either relocate out of Riverbank due to housing or work circumstances while some people had to move in with family and or friends. Some of the homes we went to had two families in one house. There were a few grandparents and great-grandparents that were raising their grandchildren.”
There were several vehicles in the caravan rolling through neighborhoods in Riverbank that had many onlookers with phones in their hands wondering what the stir was all about. The SWAT truck led one of the caravans with Santa Claus riding in back and the other special guest was the Grinch.
“The joy on the kid’s faces young and old was precious,” remarked Ridenour about the event. “Equally precious were the tears of parents knowing they could provide for their families during the Christmas season and amongst a pandemic. Many have lost their jobs and are struggling just to provide the essentials. I would also say the commitment from our numerous volunteers shows just how committed Riverbank Police Services and the Sheriff’s Office are to giving back to our community. I am very proud of everyone.”
The children that participated in the program were selected by RPS with referrals from the schools. Each stop that was made by the 16 volunteers from both RPS and the Sheriff’s office were greeted by kids with big smiles filled with excitement and warmth from the parents that were so grateful for being included in the program; some even shedding a tear or two.
“It was so heartwarming to see the young children jumping up and down as we pulled up with Christmas music playing and our emergency lights shining,” expressed Ridenour. “Each stop we made was unique and the genuine appreciation by the parents, children, and families made all the hard work and effort pay off.”
With the success of the revamped concept due to the pandemic they may continue the personalized deliveries in 2021 advised Ridenour, with hope to expand the program to additional families.
“I would like to thank all of our sponsors, numerous donors, volunteers, and the residents of Riverbank for making this worthwhile event come together,” shared Ridenour. “As a team we provided so many essential items to these kids, along with groceries, toys and a warm meal. This program speaks volumes as to how great Riverbank is and how our community always comes together in times of need. I am truly honored to work in and serve such a great community.”