Corpus Christi Shop With a Cop Running Short of Money
Shop With a Cop needs help this season — from residents who can donate money and from law enforcement officers who can donate their time. The program usually serves 500-600 kids a year. This year, however, Hurricane Harvey increased competition for donations among local nonprofits and funds have fallen short.
“There’s a lot of competition out there,” said Tara Mylett, who has served as executive director for the past 17 years. “We have growing needs, especially in the winter time.”
Currently underway, this year’s program has a list of 400 kids to take shopping with another 150 on the waiting list. Officers from every branch of law enforcement each take one child out for a day of shopping at local Walmart stores. (Walmart is one of the corporate sponsors of the program.) The children are given $110 to spend on necessities, including clothes, shoes, jackets, and toiletries. A little is always left over for a toy at the end of the day.
“Every child I have shopped with has wanted to buy their siblings or a parent a present instead of themselves,” said Shop With a Cop Program Coordinator Mike Tamez, a special investigator with the Nueces County District Attorney Criminal Interdiction Unit. “We get to see the kinds of individuals these kids are, how generous they are, even when they have so little themselves.”
Beyond providing physical needs, the special bond built between the officers and families involved becomes the focus — an added benefit with long-term effects.
“That’s why I do it,” Tamez said of his involvement. “I see the disparity between today’s youth and law enforcement. Some of these kids have only negative experiences with the police. They don’t see the human side of who we are and what we do.”
The program, which also holds anti-bullying events in local schools, brings underprivileged families and officers together in a way that allows them to get to know each other.
“It’s something crazy when these kids talk to these officers and you see the bond, the relationship, the shared emotion,” Tamez said. “It’s a humbling event for me.”
The Coastal Bend Shop With a Cop program is one of the largest in the nation, Mylett told Corpus Christi Business News. It began 21 years ago when several officers got together and took a group of kids shopping. They used their own money for a few years then started holding fundraisers and formed Shop With a Cop as a tax-exempt nonprofit. It has grown each year until now.
Despite the shortage of funds, the 400 kids already scheduled will get their shopping trips.
“We will have to go into the negative for next year,” Mylett said. “We probably won’t be able to add anyone from the waiting list. In past years, we’ve always been able to help those on the waiting list as well. We have shopped up until the day after Christmas to get everyone taken care of.”
HOW TO HELP
The program needs at least another $15,000 to meet immediate holiday needs, Mylett. Anyone can donate any amount easily through the program’s Facebook page using PayPal @ccfopswc. All of the money goes directly to the shopping trips.
You can also call (361) 442-4787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on other ways to help.
Police officers wanting to get involved in the program can use the same contact information to volunteer.
“We are looking for officers who want to bond and build a relationship with these kids,” Tamez said. “It is so much more than taking care of these kids for Christmas. It’s far reaching. That’s why it’s so important for officers to get involved.”
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