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Kids shop with cops to find Christmas gifts for family

Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office Reservist Jennifer Williams, right, shops Sunday evening at Walmart in Willmar with Jimena Vela, 9, during the annual Shop With a Cop event. The law enforcement volunteers help the participating children shop for Christmas presents to give to their family members. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR — Jimena Vela was one of 20 kids and Jennifer Williams was one of 20 law enforcement officers who participated in the annual Shop With a Cop program Sunday night at Walmart in Willmar.

The program pairs officers with children, selected by social service agencies, who shop for family members who might not otherwise receive a Christmas present.

Williams, a reservist since 2011 with the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office, was joined by sheriff’s deputies and Willmar Police Department officers, all in uniform.

Police Sgt. Julie Asmus paired the officers with the kids. As Williams and Jimena began shopping, Williams asked Jimena, who just turned 9, how many people she was shopping for. Jimena said she was shopping for her grandmother, mother, three cousins and two younger brothers.

Williams pushed the cart and asked Jimena what she thought each family member might like as a gift. Jimena was faced with a wide variety of possibilities. But she carefully made her selections as they walked through the clothing and toy departments.

Everyone had to keep in mind Walmart’s $50 limit. After about half an hour, Williams calculated the total and it was slightly over $50.

“There’s an overage card,’’ said Williams over her shoulder.

Just before lining up at the wrapping station, Jimena looked one last time at the gifts in the cart. She was deciding whether to put one back and get one for herself. But after about a minute or so, she decided to keep what she had selected.

“It’s OK,’’ she said.

Store manager Kimberly Lippert said Walmart is proud to get involved with the community and law enforcement.

“My philosophy is my community shops at this store,’’ she said. “So this is one way that we give back with helping individuals that may not have a present to give to their family.’’

Willmar Police Chief David Wyffels said the program has been around for at least 15 years. He said officers get a good feeling out of it.

“They all walk in with a smile on their face. They all walk out of here with a smile on their face,’’ he said. “Overall it’s a very fun time for us and it’s very rewarding.’’

This being her first time, Williams said the event was a lot of fun and she really enjoyed helping Jimena pick out something for her family.

“I wish I could be there to see the looks on their faces when they open their presents,’’ she said. “I think they’ll be very excited.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150