Shop with a Cop delivers smiles, fun at Kmart
FARMINGTON — Aztec resident Daniel Hill was having trouble making a selection among the "Minecraft" items in the toy department at Kmart during the Shop with a Cop event today.
It was a good thing Hill was shopping with San Juan County Sheriff's Office Patrol Deputy Marc McIntyre, who helped the 9-year-old finalize his decision.
"Thank you for helping me," Hill said after settling on a "Minecraft" paper craft pack.
Shop with a Cop pairs children with law enforcement personnel to spend $100 on fun merchandise and on items of necessity, such as clothes and personal hygiene products.
Reserve Deputy Charles Bedford and his daughter, Claire Bedford, were helping Bloomfield resident Kimberly Hutchens and her daughters, Emma Hutchens, 11, and Avery Hutchens, 9, shop for clothes and books.
"It's fun watching the kids go shopping," Charles said while standing next to the family's shopping cart.
While Charles kept track of the amount spent by the girls, Claire helped them select items.
"I like to volunteer, and I like helping out the community," Claire, 15, said.
This was the first year the Hutchens family has participated in the program. They were recommended by the Family Crisis Center, and it is their first Christmas since Kimberly divorced the girls' father.
"It has been such a blessing for the girls. The girls hold police officers in very high regard, so this experience is special for them," Kimberly said.
In the shoe aisle, Emma took her time in selecting a new pair of boots to wear for an upcoming concert at school.
"It's really fun. There's so many different things that you can get, like so many different types of clothes," Emma said.
Avery also picked up a new pair of boots, but she was looking forward to a trip into the toy department to get a "Moana" doll from the Disney movie of the same name.
Jayme Harcrow, community relations liaison for the sheriff's office, said the program helped 130 children through funding from the Sheriff’s Office Foundation Board, a nonprofit associated with the agency that funds community relations events and programs.
Although the program found itself short on funding this year, it eventually received help through community and law enforcement fundraising efforts, including the Farmington Police Department "No Shave November" event that raised more than $1,300.
"We owe a huge thank you to all our community members," Harcrow said, commending Kmart employees for providing breakfast for participants.
Throughout the morning, the store's aisles were filled with deputies and officers talking with families while pushing shopping carts.
Courtney Ayze, of Farmington, was making her way to the checkout area with her fiancé, Joseph Garcia, and their three children – Alijah, 4, Devonte, 3 and Zamiya, 1.
"It's pretty decent that the officers take time out of their day to do this for the kids," Ayze said adding that the two deputies who assisted her family interacted with the kids and provided helpful suggestions.
The deputies were Jeremy Farley and Cody Tipler, who also helped load the family's items in the parking lot and received hugs from Ayze.
Both men said the experience was fun, and the only challenge they faced was finding pants for the boys.
In addition to helping kids, the program provides an outlet for law enforcement personnel to build relationships with the community and change children's perspectives toward officers, Tipler said.
"They'll look at us as a person instead of a guy with a gun by his side," he said. "We're people, too. We have to do certain jobs and certain tasks, but when we see kids, we have big hearts for them."
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.