By E.I. Hillin
Phoenix Staff Writer
Uniformed police officers spread out through Walmart on Saturday morning pushing shopping carts in hot pursuit of gifts for children participating in Shop With a Cop.
“It’s a real emotional experience to shop with those kids,” said Police Chief Rex Eskridge.
Each child had a $150 budget for Christmas presents. A total of 26 children received gifts, and 20 participated in the shopping spree.
The officers pushed shopping carts while the children searched the store for toys and clothes.
“Do you know what size you are? You’re about the same size as my boy,” said Officer Nick Ford as he helped his shopping buddy pick out jeans.
Matt White, Yaffe Iron and Metal’s chief operating officer, helped to create the project in Muskogee. He enjoys seeing the growth of the project.
“We kind of got the ball rolling and kind of let the officers take charge,” White said.
Yaffe is one of the many contributors to the project, but the Police Department reaches out to the community for funding.
“They go out and solicit more money and try to help more kids,” White said.
“We’ve had multiple individuals, corporations, and private contributions,” said Cpl. Michael Mahan, the public information officer for the Muskogee Police Department.
Walmart employees helped the kids find the perfect gift while shoppers watched. One shopper was moved to donate after seeing the police alongside the kids at the checkout station.
He approached Mahan and handed him a $50 bill to use for the project.
This was the third year that Officer Michael Lippmann participated in Shop With a Cop.
“It’s fun to give something back to the kids in the community and make sure they have a better Christmas,” Lippmann said.
His shopping buddy knew just what to shop for: “I got toys, Legos, cars, swords, that’s it.”
Deputy Chief Chad Farmer said, “I had a great time.”
His shopping buddy smiled as she spoke about the gifts she picked out — “Barbie stuff and puppy stuff.”
After the kids and officers went through the checkout line, it was breakfast time.
“McDonald’s donated free meals to all the kids,” Mahan said.
The following people made financial donations: Gayle Johnson, Chris Kelly, Susannah Stephens, and Roger and Carla Lovelady.
The following organizations contributed to Shop With a Cop; Yaffe Iron and Metal, Courthouse Bowling League, The Exchange Club, Fraternal Order of Police, Kids Space Child Advocacy Center, Hamlin’s El Toro Restaurant, city of Muskogee garage employees, Walmart and McDonald’s.
Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or email@example.com.