Dee Thomas would have been in her patrol car sitting on the U.S. 127 median.
Instead, on Tuesday, she was in Walmart, on-duty, with 11-year-old Damon Smith, helping him figure out what his family would like for Christmas as part of “Shop with a Cop.”
The children she and other police officers shopped with were nominated on a needs basis by their schools and selected by Mount Pleasant City Police. Officers from other local departments participated, including Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police, Central Michigan University Police and the Isabella County Sheriff’s Department.
“I get a lot of thumbs-up,” Michigan State Police officer Mike Smith said. “Lots of people wonder what’s going on, once you tell ‘em, they’re like, ‘Aw, that’s good.’”
Smith has been in law enforcement for 23 years.
Walmart Supervisor Cammie Theisen said the way the grant works is the city applies for grants with the company. It’s up to the individual stores to decide how much the grant is, with a ceiling limit of $5,000. Standen said the grant for “Shop with a Cop” was $3,000.
The event is also an opportunity for police to help the community, rather than plucking criminals from the public. Mount Pleasant officer Tim Standen helped coordinate the event. He said they tried to select kids from each school in the area.
“We try to get a kid or two from every school,” Standen said.
If any kids had money left over after they were done shopping, Standen said, they were encouraged to get something for themselves.
“A lot of the kids were encouraged to get something for themselves,” Standen said. “And they wouldn’t. That speaks volumes.”
With 23 kids participating in the event, each was given a $130 spending limit. Emily Bles, 13, of Mount Pleasant, participated in the event and said it was important to her.
“I find it important because I don’t have enough money to shop for my family,” Bles said.
The well-intended event was made possible by the contribution of different pockets of society, the volunteers, police officers and Mount Pleasant Walmart, 4730 Encore Blvd.
Standen said a woman was so moved by the event that she cried. Not to embarrass anybody, Standen said, but the event elicits strong reactions.
“The volunteers work harder than anybody else in this event,” Standen said. “They do an amazing job.”
Volunteers from Beal City and West Intermediate School wrapped the gifts the children bought.
“At student council, we had the option of signing up,” West Intermediate student Lyndsay Moore, 13, said.
Kelly Schafer, a volunteer from Beal City, heard about the event from a police officer who works with the school, where Schafer works in the athletics department as a counselor. She brought both of her kids with her.
“We always are looking for volunteer opportunities,” Schafer said. “For us, especially, my kids have had it good. I didn’t, but I wanted them realize that there are people who need help and to do what you can for others that need it.”
Schafer said the event is equally important for the kids who used the grant money to shop for their families.
“For them,” Schafer said, “I think it’s important for them to realize that there are people are there for them and that we’ll help them.”