Cops help kids for Christmas

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

Thir­teen kids from six fam­i­lies got a chance to spend the evening on Thurs­day Christmas shop­ping with a po­lice of­fi­cer, dur­ing the Siloam Springs Po­lice Depart­ment’s an­nual Shop With a Cop event.

The fam­i­lies met with of­fi­cers at the po­lice depart­ment for milk and cook­ies, where they had a chance to hang out with Santa, ask him some ques­tions and jump in his lap for pic­tures. From there, they headed to the Wal­mart on U.S. High­way 412 and met in the gar­den cen­ter for a group pic­ture be­fore of­fi­cers paired off with kids to be­gin their shop­ping trips.

Each child was given a $100 bud­get, with $50 in­tended for ne­ces­si­ties like sham­poo, tooth­paste or cloth­ing, and $50 for de­sired items such as toys or video games, ac­cord­ing to com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer DeAn­dra Strick­land. The depart­ment also pro­vided vouch­ers for a full-spread hol­i­day meal from Harps to each fam­ily, which are

re­deemable through Dec. 23, she said.

Of­fi­cer Nathaniel VanPaepeghem, a pa­trol of­fi­cer who has been on the force for three years, par­tic­i­pated in the event for the third year in a row. He was paired with Ai­den, an eighth-grade stu­dent at Siloam Springs Mid­dle School, who walked up and down dif­fer­ent aisles with a smile on his face, jok­ing around and mak­ing con­ver­sa­tion with VanPaepeghem as he picked out dif­fer­ent items on the shelves. VanPaepeghem said the night went great and that in­ter­ac­tion with kids like Ai­den are what makes this event worth­while.

“The over­all joy that you see on the kid’s face when they get to pick out what they want and what they need is what makes it worth it,” VanPaepeghem said. “It’s a good way for us to do com­mu­nity out­reach. The fam­i­lies re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it and we re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the com­mu­nity that we have, so it’s a time when we get a chance to pay it for­ward to the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity that need it. There’s still kids and fam­i­lies that see me in pub­lic (that have par­tic­i­pated in pre­vi­ous years) who will come up and say hi or give me a hug. … I’ll ab­so­lutely be com­ing back (next year).”

This event is held at the end of each year and is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween the po­lice depart­ment and the Siloam Springs Re­gional Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 68, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion con­sist­ing of ac­tive duty po­lice of­fi­cers in Siloam Springs, Strick­land said. Po­lice Chief Jim Wil­meth has al­ways been sup­port­ive of the event and he works closely along­side the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice to help make it hap­pen, she said.

When of­fi­cers from the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice par­tic­i­pate in this event and oth­ers alike, their in­volve­ment is vol­un­tary and they are on their own time, Strick­land said. In past years, funds for the event have been raised from of­fi­cers col­lect­ing do­na­tions out­side of Wal­mart. This year, a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent fundrais­ers were held at lo­cal busi­nesses, such as a chili cook off that was held at Creek­side Tap­room.

The Siloam Springs Po­lice Depart­ment is lo­cated at 100 U.S. High­way 412 W. More in­for­ma­tion about the depart­ment is avail­able on its Face­book page or by call­ing 479-524-4118.

Hunter McFer­rin/Siloam Sun­day

The Siloam Springs Po­lice Depart­ment held its an­nual “Shop with a Cop” event on Thurs­day night, where a group of kids in the com­mu­nity were able to go on a shop­ping trip with of­fi­cers. The event be­gan at the po­lice depart­ment, where milk and cook­ies were served to the kids and their par­ents, fol­low­ing a visit from Santa. Af­ter­wards, ev­ery­one made their way to the Wal­mart Su­per­center on U.S. High­way 412. Above, a girl waits as Santa be­gins to an­swer her ques­tion.

Hunter McFer­rin/Siloam Sun­day

Of­fi­cer Nathaniel VanPaepeghem and Ai­den, who is in the eighth grade at Siloam Springs Mid­dle School, be­gin their shop­ping trip by look­ing for body wash, sham­poo and other cos­metic prod­ucts.

Hunter McFer­rin/Siloam Sun­day

The kids and of­fi­cers gather for a group pic­ture just be­fore go­ing their separate ways to shop.

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