Driving through the Crossroads Shopping Center on Thursday, Dec. 18 you may have noticed a few sheriff’s vehicles and a S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) truck festively decorated with a bow on the grill along Kohl’s store front.
Their presence at the department store was for the sixth annual “Shop with a Cop” program that assists underprivileged children during the holiday season by taking them on a modest shopping spree.
The program has been funded through donations from local businesses, private parties, and associations within the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s department.
Children are selected throughout the city of Riverbank and were picked up from their homes by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department deputies and escorted to Kohl’s Department Store on the day of the event. At the store the deputies helped the youngsters select new items like coats, sweaters, jeans, shoes and other essential items. The Kohl’s Cares Program has maximized their purchasing power.
The volunteers included approximately 25 officers and 10 other non-sworn volunteers including the S.T.A.R.S. group. There were 55 youngsters from 24 families, ranging from three to 13-years-old that participated in the event this year which is more than they have had in years past, according to Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely.
Deputy Esquivez was shopping with kindergartner, Emmi in the shoe department trying on some new sneakers. Right on the other bench was Deputy Alysa Tovar and eight-year-old Marina, who had her eyes on some new gray boots.
Although this was Deputy Jesse Tovar’s first year coordinating the event, he has participated in the program for the past four years.
After the participants were done shopping they ventured over to the Riverbank Community Center to join their families for a pizza dinner provided by Round Table Pizza and Mountain Mikes, along with hot chocolate and coffee provided by Starbuck’s. Guests were also offered water, cookies, and doughnuts for a little dessert.
The final surprise was a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, who distributed gifts to the youngsters that participated and offered them a photo opportunity as well. The photos were printed on site so the families were able to take the photos with them that evening.
The Riverbank Home Depot employees volunteered to purchase the toys out of their own pocket which were given to all the kids that participated in the “Shop with a Cop” program.
Home Depot paint associate, Jamie Driscoll helped organize the toy donation and stated that it is part of the community service that they do.
The employees donated 58 wrapped gifts to the program and Home Depot also donated eight Christmas trees to participating families that were still in need of one.
“The event went very well since we had plenty of volunteers to help with the shopping with the children and setting up the Community Center,” stated Tovar. “I received positive feedback from the volunteers, the parents who were very grateful for the gifts, and the children who enjoyed riding in the patrol vehicles.”
The holiday party was possible due to donations from businesses, individuals, and organizations including: Kohl’s Department Store, The Home Depot, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Round Table Pizza, Save Mart Supermarket, Coke, Starbucks, Angkor Donuts, Designs by Karen, Riverbank Rotary Club, First Missionary Baptist Church, Robert and Carol Sojka, Michael Gianelli, David Lake, Albert Veldstra, Arthur Harris, Gregory and Catherine Bernardi, Deputy Patrick McCulloch, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Employee Foundation, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sworn Deputies Association, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Air Support Association, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Supervisors Association, and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s K-9 Association.