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Shop with a Cop raises thousands for Christmas gifts
Shop with a Cop raises thousands for Christmas gifts

Sgt. Gwen Brankel receives a "high five" from Devon Andrews, 6, of Waynesville, while he sits behind the wheel of a patrol car.
ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Nov. 24, 2008) — Police, firefighters and paramedics turned out in droves Saturday at Wal-Mart to teach children about emergency services while raising money for the Shop with a Cop program.

For Jason Legan, who began his law enforcement career this summer as a rookie officer in the Richland Police Department, this was his first experience with the Shop with a Cop program, which helps provide Christmas gifts for needy children who otherwise might not have many gifts for Christmas. The program helps children see law enforcement officers in a positive light.

Legan said he joined the police force because he wants to help put a stop to destructive activities.

“I like trying to get drugs off the street and stopping driving-while-intoxicated drivers,” Legan said. “Hopefully, this will help form good opinions of police with some of these children.”

Officers from most Pulaski County law enforcement agencies participated, according to Sgt. Gwen Brankel of the Waynesville Police Department who is organizing the event.

“I sent a letter to all the chiefs and they sent people to our event,” Brankel said. “We’re doing very well — people are very supportive. Earlier today, we had fire trucks and ambulances here before they were called away to a fire.”

Waynesville firefighter Tanner Hunt was one of the firefighters called away to other duties, but said later Saturday that he was glad to help raise money for the Shop with a Cop program while educating young children on what firefighters do.

Hunt said firefighters turned out for the Wal-Mart event in full bunker gear similar to what they would be wearing in an actual fire. Fire suits and breathing apparatus can be scary for young children trapped in a burning house, and fear of rescuers can be deadly.

“The more exposure we have to the younger children, the better,” Hunt said. “If they see us coming in these suits, they won’t run away from us.”

One of the children who had the opportunity to get inside an emergency vehicle was Devon Andrews, 6, of Waynesville. Andrews was already wearing a “Shop with a Cop” T-shirt, which is available for $10 and helps support the program. T-shirts sales alone raised $1,017.55 as of Saturday afternoon, Brankel said, and they continue to be sold.

More shirts will be sold during Waynesville’s Christmas on the Square program on Dec. 6, Brankel said.

Asked about the T-shirt, Andrews said it showed a cartoon picture.

“It’s got a policeman and a boy — he’s got Christmas gifts in that cart with him,” Andrews said.

Devon Andrews mother, Mindie Andrews, said she’s glad to support the event.

“I know the police force is trying to do events like this every year,” she said. “It’s good to find out what police officers do and show it to kids.”

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