Local law enforcement protect, serve, and shop
December 9, 2014
Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Hemingway’s shopping cart was almost full, but a majority of the cart’s space was occupied by 7-year-old Xadrian Hunda.
Surrounded by freshly wrapped Christmas gifts, Hunda sat cross-legged in the cart while rattling off his purchases to anyone who would listen to him describe what he had picked out for Christmas.
Hunda spent Saturday morning with Hemingway as part of the Fraternal Order of Police’s annual Shop with a Cop event, which pairs underprivileged children from Summit and Wasatch Counties with local law enforcement officers to provide them and their families with gifts for the holiday season. Recipients are referred to the program through their schools or church organizations.
Hemingway said the event gives officers a unique opportunity to spend time with children in an informal setting.
"It was great to get to interact and spend time with them in this way," Hemingway said. "And for him to come in and know that he didn’t have to worry about money or what his mom or dad had to do to get him something for Christmas this year, it’s just nice to be able to give back to them this way."
Officers from the Park City and Kamas Police Departments, Utah Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, federal agencies, and deputies from Summit and Wasatch County Sheriff’s Offices took participating children to the Walmart in Kimball Junction, in their patrol cars with blaring sirens and flashing lights.
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Each child was given $100 and then, with an officer in tow, they browsed the aisles for gifts for themselves and their families.
"It was the greatest day of my whole, entire life," Hunda said. "And he’s my favorite cop ever, now."
Donors and sponsors contributed $17,000 to this year’s event, including approximately $4,000 from Salt Lake City facial plastic surgeon and Parkite Steven Mobley.
For almost 10 years, Mobley has designated a period during the holiday season during which all the profits he receives from performing cosmetic injections are donated to different charities. This year, he decided to choose a local organization, ensuring his donation would go directly back into the community and that he and his wife, Britta, could participate in.
"I just thought it was a great way to feed some local dollars into the Park City community," Mobley said. "It’s been wonderful and it has been really interesting to see the difference between last year and this year. Last year, I simply gave a check. But this year, we were able to go down there and participate. And to see the smiles of the kids as they picked out bicycles and other toys, I just thought it was so heartwarming."
Seventeen-year-old Joe Baird ended up choosing a Sony headphones set and an ax. He explained that the ax was for his family, who recently moved into a new house with a wood-burning stove.
Baird said it was "pretty special" to be able to pick out presents for his family with his 10-year-old brother, Jacob. The Bairds recently moved to Summit County from Colorado and Baird’s mother, Amy, said her family wouldn’t have had a Christmas if it wasn’t for Shop with a Cop.
"It was just very kind, generous and thoughtful for someone to do this for us," she said. "I was able to send them with someone I could trust and the whole thing has been just great."
Like Baird’s, most of the purchases were unselfish, with children frequently choosing items to give to other family members.
"The beautiful thing about ‘Shop with a Cop’ is that it truly brings out the giving spirit," Summit County sheriff-elect Justin Martinez said. "Almost 100 percent of the kids think first about their family. Then if there is any money left over, they buy for themselves."
Many participating law enforcement officers contributed not only their time, but also their money, reaching into their own pockets to offset any overspending.
"It probably means more for us to do this," Martinez said. "For them, it is a tangible item they get. But for us, what we are getting out of it is beyond measure. It’s the opportunity to participate in such a worthwhile program to help out these families in need.
"It’s definitely an opportunity to do good in the community," Martinez added. "The community expects us to protect and serve, but they don’t see a lot of service. This shows the commitment of the deputies and law enforcement because we are here to serve."
Shop with a Cop allows the community to see its local law officers in a different light, especially considering the political climate that surrounds the perception of law enforcement across the nation, Sergeant Andrew Wright, with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, said.
"As a law enforcement officer, I feel there is nothing more important right now, with what is going on today, in having that relationship with the community," he said. "We are human and we have a job to do. But, we can also do things like this to show that we do have soft hearts behind the badges we carry.
"It’s nice to see local law enforcement do the opposite of what we’ve been seeing in the news," Wright added. "We were out there giving hugs to very diverse families, who didn’t necessarily speak our language. We’re trying to change the attitudes toward us."
The families that participated in Shop with a Cop were all from diverse backgrounds and spoke different languages. Certain officers or accompanying relatives were able to translate for the non-English speaking participants.
"There is nothing better than having and participating in programs so we as law enforcement officers can say we are part of the community," Wright said. "We want to have the trust of the community and we were just really humbled to be a part of this program."
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