Ten underprivileged families from Ceres were treated to a $500 holiday gift buying visit to the Walmart store during Monday's third annual "Shop With A Cop" event. But instead of making a bee line to the toy aisles, most parents focused on clothing.
Walmart helped underwrite $2,500 worth of the gift buying in addition to money supplied by numerous businesses.
The experience began when families - identify as being needy by the Ceres Partnership - linked up with one of about 20 officers lined up inside the entry point of the store. The families were treated to a free meal at the McDonald's inside the store before the shopping. A Walmart employee and two officers was assigned to help out and in some cases keep track of the purchase total.
"Last year we were thinking it would be like ‘Let's get the kids toys,'" said Officer Greg Yotsuya. "It was ‘hey we need clothes, we need jackets, we need diapers.' These families are families that really need this."
Ceres Police Lt. Rick Collins was enjoying watching the shopping unfold as children and their parents were picking out items.
"I did it last year and what was so revealing is that you think Christmas and toys but they were buys clothes and necessities and that's how you know you're reaching a needy family," said Lt. Collins.
Sgt. Danny Vierra watched as one mother selected only sale clothing items to make the money stretch farther.
"I hope they do a little more toys," he said.
The Shop with a Cop event is different from the department's Beards for Kids Toy Drive, which is designed to bring awareness to children from poor families. The drive is to collect toys which will be given out in neighborhoods this Saturday by Santa riding around in the Ceres Police SWAT vehicle, said Sgt. Jason Coley.
"Our goal is to make sure every child in Ceres gets a present," said Sgt. Coley. "We couldn't have done all these families without the donations of businesses. We put out a challenge after Walmart donated what they did."
Some of the businesses that rose to the occasion included Art's Portable Welding, Richey Roofing, Cen-Cal Tactical, Embroidery Plus and Sam's Café.
"We've been overwhelmed this year by the support that we've gotten from the businesses," said Yotsuya.
The first Shop With a Cop event was held in 2012 involved officers taking gifts to homes of needy families, said Coley.