FAIRMONT - It's a program that has been a tradition in other communities, but Sunday was Fairmont Police Department's first time practicing "Shop With a Cop."
The program pairs officers with local youth to help the children shop for family members.
"It's new to Fairmont, but other communities like Fridley, Duluth and Rochester have done it before," said Deb Kelly, wife of Officer Kevin Kelly. "We got a donation of $500 worth of gift cards, and that was matched by the Fairmont Police Association. That is something that the officers choose to participate in and comes out of their paycheck."
Robynn Buhmann, from left, Jackie Buhmann and Pam Brolsma help wrap presents Sunday for “Shop With a Cop” shoppers.
On Sunday, police officers also donated their time. The officers picked their child up from their homes and brought them to Walmart, where each child received $75 in gift cards to buy Christmas presents for their families.
"We contacted the school for help in finding families," said Robynn Buhmann, wife of Officer Brad Buhmann. "From there, the kids were chosen at random."
The wives of participating officers also were on duty Sunday, wrapping up all the presents children had picked out for their loved ones.
"As we were organizing this, Sergeant Lowell Spee came into my store, and a few customers overheard us talking and gave us donations," said Deb Kelly, who owns Fairmont business Picture This, Scrap That. "That's how we paid for all the gift wrap and such."
But the time donated by police may be the best gift the children received through the program.
"This is a good way to have a child's first experience with police be a positive one," Robynn Buhmann said. "For many, a first encounter with police could mean they were delivering a death notice, or something bad was happening."
Along with presents for the families, the child had their picture taken with their police officer, and also received lunch from Subway.
"It was interesting to see what they picked out," said Officer Buhmann. "None that I saw went for the big-ticket items. They stuck to the smaller dollar items, and they had a plan on what they wanted to get."
Officer Buhmann's young shopper proved that.
"What are yoga pants?" the policeman asked the boy, when they started down the child's gift list. "We might need to ask someone."
While there were a few times the shoppers needed to turn to a calculator to make sure they were staying within budget, most remained on task.
"It was nice to see they didn't want anything for themselves," said Officer Dustin Schwebke. "It was all about their mom, their dad, their grandma."
The children that shopped will receive gift certificates for themselves at a later date.
"This also gives the child a feeling of pride, being able to buy presents for their family members," said Deb Kelly.
"This is so much more than just writing a check for a good cause," added Robynn Buhmann. "This is about mentoring and giving a positive feeling at Christmas."