"It was very, very touching. It seemed like the kids were buying things for other people."

New Castle Police Lt. Cynthia Eve





Shop with a Cop is meant to make children happy, but officers participating in this year's program were equally touched.

"I had tears in my eyes the whole time," said New Castle Police Lt. Cynthia Eve, who took two sisters ages 9 and 13 on a shopping spree at Wal-Mart Wednesday.

Her eyes brimmed as she described the experience two days later.

Eve was one of about 10 police officers from various local departments who took 41 children on a shopping spree. The gifts were paid for with donations raised by local police departments, supplemented with money from a Wal-Mart grant.

The intent was to give the children money to buy gifts for themselves, but most of them thought of others and bought presents for their mothers and fathers, too, Eve said.

The effort was coordinated by State police trooper James Mangino and Linda Proudfoot, Wal-Mart sales associate and grant coordinator.

Officers from local departments and the state police were allotted gift cards of $152.44 for each child, and they took them shopping in Wal-Mart to spend it.

"It was a lot of fun," said New Castle Lt. Thomas Macri, who accompanied a 12-year-old boy. "You go there and you're with kids who maybe have no father or mother, or they have parents but are underprivileged. These kids got to buy things and spend time with a police officer, and some of them even wore the officers' hats."

The program started three years ago when the Union Township Wal-Mart received a $4,000 holiday grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation in Bentonville, Ark. Proudfoot came up with the shop with the cop idea and she asked Mangino to coordinate it with her. This year the store received $4,500. The police departments individually came up with donations to add to that money and altogether they raised $6,200.

Wal-Mart bought the participants lunch at McDonald's and the children had their pictures taken with the officers before setting out in the store to make their purchases.

The two girls Eve accompanied at first were reluctant to spend the money on their own wants, she said.

"They were buying socks, underwear and things for their mother," she said.

She encouraged them to get something they wanted, and each chose a music compact disc. She persuaded them to each buy a video game. Then one of them asked if they could get their ears pierced. They called home for permission, then they excitedly went to the ear-piercing department.

"It's something they'll remember forever," Eve said.

When their spree was almost concluded, Eve took a television off the shelf and put it into the girls' buggy. Their mouths fell open.

Eve noted that other children bought large appliances for their mothers with their money.

"It was very, very touching," she said. "It seemed like the kids were buying things for other people."

The effort was basically volunteer, Macri explained. Some of the officers were on duty while others went on their own time.

The police use certain criteria when selecting children for the shopping, including age and need.

Some of the children's families have had traumatic experiences with police previously, Proudfoot pointed out.

Although many children grow up afraid of police, the officers had a chance to show them they don't have to be afraid, Macri pointed out

"We're supposed to be the ones they come to when they need help," he said.

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