Ormond Beach Police Department's fifth-annual Shop with a Cop event provided 25 children with a $100 shopping spree.
With shopping carts decorated with tinsel and balloons, and the Ormond Beach Police Department's giant Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, lined the outside of the Walmart at 1521 W. Granada Blvd. on Saturday, Dec. 4, a juxtaposition of holiday cheer, shoppers exiting the supermarket stopped and stared, with some of the more curious onlookers asking what was about to transpire.
And when the pink Astro Skate bus arrived, preceded by several patrol vehicles and their sirens, the answer became clear: It was time for the fifth-annual Shop with a Cop.
Since 2017, the Ormond Beach Police Department has partnered with Walmart to provide local kids, chosen by their schools, with a special holiday shopping spree. Per a grant provided by Walmart, each child is provided with $100 to spend in the store. A total 25 children participated this year, and for Ormond Beach Police Chief Jesse Godfrey, every year marks a more rewarding experience than the last.
“Every kid I’ve had for the last five years has never once put themselves first," Godfrey said. "They always put their family members first, as far as what gift they’re going to give. This year was even more rewarding, because not only did this young lady that I had buy for her entire family, she actually thought of one of her teachers.”
The experience made Aydin Bennett, a fifth grader partnered with Capt. Chris Roos, feel special, said his grandmother Patty Black. Aydin had a tough year in 2020 with his family life, and while that has been resolved, she said, being able to see him have a positive experience with law enforcement made her emotional.
“I’m so proud," Black said. "Just getting him around law enforcement, the police officers, and seeing the police officers do good — because there’s so much bad out there, and that’s what they see, so to be involved in something like this with the positive attitudes, it’s wonderful.”
Walmart store manager Mark Rogers said the event is one of the best ways to reach local children and provide them with a positive law enforcement experience. This is the 15th year he's been part of the event, which has taken place at different stores he's worked at over the years.
“For the most part, it just takes people who care, and it’s something I believe is a great benefit of working for Walmart, because Walmart wants to do things for the community," he said.
Shop with a Cop is one of the ways OBPD works to connect with the community, and Godfrey said there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Each officer that participated volunteered for the assignment, and to him, that shows their dedication to the city.
“I’ve never seen it like this before," Godfrey said. "To include, we have the staffing shortages that we talked about, so for them to come out despite all that, again that moves me too — my own employees. I’m very proud of them, and I’m moved by what they do and how they represent the city and the department.”