Shop with cops

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CD shopping: Suffolk Sheriff’s Deputy Debbie Callis helps 12-year-old Tyasia find a CD for her brother at Walmart on Monday. Tyasia was one of 10 children benefiting from the Suffolk Fraternal Order of Police’s generosity.

Twelve-year-olds Steven and Tyasia were like any normal pre-teens shopping for Christmas gifts on Monday.

Steven veered his shopping cart around corners and down aisles at Walmart, choosing CDs for his sister, fishing lures for his dad and craft supplies for his mom.

Across the store, Tyasia had loaded her cart with clothes and other gifts for her mom, stepfather and siblings — except for one. Like many girls, she was at a loss for gift ideas for her older brother.

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Steven and Tyasia weren’t shopping alone, though. They and eight other children were guided through the store by volunteers from the Suffolk Police Department, Suffolk Sheriff’s Office and the Probation and Parole Office.

The Suffolk Fraternal Order of Police, along with the Suffolk Police Officers Association, Walmart and a handful of private donors, collected about $1,000 to help less fortunate children in Suffolk purchase Christmas gifts for their siblings and parents — and a little something for themselves, too.

“Police officers normally see most of these kids in the worst time of their life,” said Lt. Allan Iversen. The officers wanted to show the children that “we’re not the big, bad wolf,” he said. “We want to make sure you have a good Christmas.”

Most of the children who participated currently live in the ForKids Suffolk House, said Investigator Herman Kee, the coordinator of the project. Others were referred by the school system.

“The impact, for the kids, is seeing the police officers on a positive note,” Kee said, adding that the event also gives the officers a chance to develop a good working relationship with the adults who bring the children.

“We are about serving the community we live in,” he added.

Each of the children was allocated $100 to purchase their gifts. The police volunteers helped them navigate the store, come up with ideas for hard-to-shop-for siblings and parents, keep track of their budget and make it through the checkout line.

“I’m having a great time,” said Officer Ben DeLugo, who helped Steven with his purchases. “It’s for a good cause.”

The children were treated to a snack before they began their shopping and took home gift bags, both courtesy of Walmart.

Outside donations from Nicholson’s Tax Service, Linda Matthews and Natasha Boone also helped raise funds, Kee said.

After all the gifts had been chosen and each child made it through the checkout line at register 19, the grand total reached $997.11.

“We’re going to try to make it an annual event,” Kee said.

The Suffolk Fraternal Order of Police also is delivering food baskets to more than a dozen families, as well as to the ForKids shelter.