Damien was one of this year’s lucky participants with Shop With A Cop with the MPD. Of the five nerf guns he chose while shopping with Sgt. John Woods, this one, the Scorpion Blaster, was his favorite. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

Damien was one of this year’s lucky participants with Shop With A Cop with the MPD. Of the five nerf guns he chose while shopping with Sgt. John Woods, this one, the Scorpion Blaster, was his favorite. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

“This is the best time of the year – Shop with a Cop,” said Sergeant John Woods. “If it wasn’t for the generous business donations and from the citizens, we wouldn’t be able to do this. We really wouldn‘t be able to do this without them.”

And it’s because of the generosity of those people that the Mesquite Police Department was able to take 62 elementary school students to Wal-Mart on Dec. 16 and provide them with new toys, coats and even shoes for themselves and others.

Each child was allowed to spend $130 each. If they had siblings, they were able to spend approximately another $100 to buy something for them.

On top of that, the MPD also provided 10 gift cards valued at $100 each to students at Hughes Middle School and another 10 for Virgin Valley High School.

But this year, there was even more.

Selection of heavy coats for winter was narrowed down to just two racks on Dec. 18 while the Shop With A Cop program stormed the store. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

Selection of heavy coats for winter was narrowed down to just two racks on Dec. 18 while the Shop With A Cop program stormed the store. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

According to Woods, there were also two families who were given $400 to ensure that they would be able to have a Christmas this year. That’s more than has ever been provided in the program’s 15+ years existence in Mesquite.

According to MPD Chief Troy Tanner, the efforts to get the funding was nearly nothing this year. And it was clearly evident during the shopping spree as several other shoppers approached several officers and gave them cash and gift cards on site to contribute to the program.

“Every year just gets better. People are just so giving, coming right to my office with donations,” said Tanner. “We couldn’t ask for a better community.”

Tanner was also very surprised with his assigned shopper, Esau, who chose to use a portion of his shopping money to buy a present for his other family members. “This kid’s pretty cool. He’s getting that for his cousin’s baby, then he wanted to get wrapping paper to wrap it. Most kids don’t think about that.”

After slowly browsing the crowded toy aisles, Sgt. Woods and his lucky ward, Damien, headed over to find some new shoes and a warm jacket. Although the selection for jackets was limited, Damien managed to find a cool new one to go with his new shoes and batman hoody, making him the new cool kid at school. Not only that, but he rolled off with 5 nerf guns. “That’s what you wanted?” asked Woods. “Yes, sir!” Damien replied excitedly.

“We would have brought some coats over from a different store if we needed to,” said Wal-Mart Store Manager Stephanie Buckley. “We wouldn’t have let them go without.” Buckley, who has managed the Mesquite Wal-Mart for the past couple of years also heads over to Southern Utah Wal-Marts to help out with their SWAC programs.

After their shopping spree, the kids all loaded up into the many police vehicles parked in front of the store and headed over to the Mesquite Elks Lodge for some lunch. Their toys were all marked and loaded into the cars and the many bicycles that were chosen were placed into the trailer used by MPD, which had a bit of a design change this year. Thanks to Jon Putnam, the art teacher at Virgin Valley High School, there was a cool new banner attached to the trailer. “It’s just too awesome,” commented Woods.

Lieutenant MaQuade Chesley took a break from his duties to help out with the Shop With A Cop program, pictured here with Taylor. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

Lieutenant MaQuade Chesley took a break from his duties to help out with the Shop With A Cop program, pictured here with Taylor. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

And to top the day, Woods disclosed that the Eureka donated two big boxes of toys to the SWAC program. However, due to the success of the program, Woods said that they turned around and sent the toys over to the Salvation Army for the Toys for Tots this year.

“You really can’t beat what this community does for us year after year,” said Woods. “We are so thankful and grateful that we can continue doing this for the children and families who need the help.

Donations are accepted for any of the programs the MPD co-organizes year round at their main headquarters, 695 Mayan Circle, during normal business hours.