Kids share joy of giving with local cops

Azrayella Montgomery didn't eat up much clock reaching the $100 limit during the Shop With a Cop event at the Auburn Walmart last Saturday.

Azrayella Montgomery didn’t eat up much clock reaching the $100 limit during the Shop With a Cop event at the Auburn Walmart last Saturday.

After selecting a Monster High doll for herself, the Lea Hill Elementary School third-grader turned eagerly to picking out presents for her brother and her friends.

“I’m always amazed at how they want to get gifts for others over themselves,” said Terbinos Gebremariam, the Algona Police Officer assigned to help Montgomery.

For the past three years, Auburn Policewoman Jody Howard has coordinated the Auburn Police Department’s and the Auburn Police Officers Association’s annual Shop with a Cop, which makes the Christmas season a bit brighter for 20 or so Auburn School District students in need by granting them a $100 Walmart shopping spree.

“I love doing this,” Howard said. “It’s my third-year, and it’s the highlight of my year, seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces. They just can’t stop hugging you and saying thank you.”

Every year the Auburn School Board gives her a list of names with at least one student from each of the district’s elementary and middle schools on it.

“Once I had that list, I called each child’s family and notified them that they had been selected to participate with Shop with a Cop this year,” Howard said.

At 10 a.m. Saturday the children began arriving at Walmart, where they were met at the entrance and teamed up with an officer from the Auburn, Algona and Pacific police departments. After a quick stop in the store’s break room, where officers and children gobbled up Christmas cookies and donned Santa hats, they were set loose on the sales floor.

After the children finished shopping – courtesy of a $100 gift card donated by Walmart, 20 in all this year – it was back to the break room to wrap their presents and tuck into lunch from Subway.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Howard said. “We can’t thank Walmart enough for their generosity.”

This year, Howard said, she was excited also by the generosity of a woman who was shopping at the same time as Shop with a Cop.

“At the store, an anonymous woman came up to me who wanted to donate more toys for needy children in Auburn,” Howard said. “So, in addition, we were also able to collect some more toys, which we provided to the Auburn Food Bank. Just another good Samaritan out there, which just warms my heart as well.”