Kids put family first when shopping with cops


Maricopa children demonstrated the “spirit of giving” Saturday morning as 16 kids gathered at the Police Department to be paired with police officers and take part in the city’s first Shop with a Cop, an event that provided an opportunity for children to buy holiday gifts for their families and themselves.

The program kicked off with a sponsored breakfast by McDonald’s within the Walmart on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. After their meal, each child received $190 to shop around the store, filling their shopping carts with clothes, toys, blankets and for some, groceries.

“Being in law enforcement, you always have opportunities to serve,” said Officer Craig Curry. “But to be able to take part in a child’s life and take them shopping like this is a once in a lifetime experience.”

Maricopa Police Department’s Public Information Officer Jenny Alsidez organized the Shop program and led its efforts in fundraising, gaining donations and collecting referrals. Alsidez said she notified some of the local community groups such as Against Abuse, the fire department, food bank and schools in the Maricopa Unified School District.

“It’s not all financial hardship,” Alsidez said. “We do have a couple of kids who have lost a parent, or (have) single parents. So for them to be able to contribute to their family’s Christmas brings a good sense of pride.”

The oldest of the children was 12-year-old Matthew, whose mother, Ronna Vandever, said she was surprised when she got the call her son was selected.

“It’s kind of weird for me because I’m usually the person helping, not getting helped,” Vandever said. “I still don’t know who referred us.”

Vandever said she almost said “no” to the program because she felt like there were other people that needed it, but she decided to do it for her son.

“With losing my husband, there’s been a lot of life changes,” Vandever said. “I’m excited for him to be able to and go do this.”

Matthew bought gifts for his family, including his cousins.

“I was looking forward to getting some stuff for my sister and mom,” Matthew said. “I got my mom a blanket because she gets cold in the middle of the night.”

After making their final purchases, cops and kids headed over to the Copa Center where more than 10 police department volunteers awaited them with wrapping paper, bows, decorative bags and ribbons.

Volunteer Judy Lanphein said the volunteer program in Maricopa is wonderful and gives many opportunities to provide community outreach.

“(Shop with a Cop) is a way for children to have the joy of buying something for mom and dad, just a way to show that they love them,” Lanphein said. “For the community to help facilitate that, it’s just a blessing.”