Two hundred children were given $150 each to go shopping for clothes, home supplies and Christmas gifts this year as part of the annual Shop With a Cop event in Durango and Pagosa Springs.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 8 hosts the event every year in Durango and Pagosa Springs to bring Christmas to families who might not otherwise be able to afford presents and extra meals during the holiday season.
This year, about 65 law enforcement officers participated in the annual event Dec. 17 at the Walmart in Durango. At least eight area agencies were represented, including Durango Police Department, Fort Lewis College Police Department, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, Southern Ute Tribal Rangers, Southern Ute Police Department, Ignacio Police Department, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado State Patrol.
The fraternal order was stationed with doughnuts and coffee near a group of checkout aisles and the customer service center where families lined up for their turn at shopping.
Fraternal Order of Police President Nick Stasi said 2021 marks the 30th year of Shop With a Cop in Durango, and they aimed to create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for the community.
The general purpose of the event is to bring officers together with the community they serve by putting a face – and a heart – to the uniform.
“We want to interact with the community in a very positive way so that they can see and meet us as the people who we are and not the uniform that we wear,” Stasi said.
He said the fraternal order saw a need to help families when the event started three decades ago and that need has not changed today.
Fifty-seven families and 149 children were signed up for the 2021 program in La Plata County.
The fraternal order is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that collects donations from members of the community to purchase toys and items for participants’ families.
This year, the fraternal order raised $30,000 and spent $150 per child in La Plata County and Pagosa Springs (where 50 children went shopping), Stasi said.
Durango Police Cmdr. Jacob Dunlap perused a toy aisle with Maria Delgado and her young daughter, Janelle Garcia. Their shopping cart was slowly filling with stuffed animals, including a toy dog that makes artificial messes the kids can practice cleaning up; a bouncy ball; and a soft pink blanket. Delgado said this was her first year participating in Shop With a Cop.
Durango Police Officer Seth Karr was helping another family, Jennifer Garcia and her children, Malikai Kanip Garcia and Grayson Garcia, on their hunt for presents.
A family of four, who preferred not to release their names, was assisted by Fort Lewis College Police Chief Brett Deming in searching for toys, shoes and clothes.
During the family’s early morning shopping, Deming helped one of the boys find the perfect-fitting shoes. He knelt beside the boy and asked him if the shoe was too tight or too loose as the boy tried a couple pairs on for size.
“This is why we do it, so we can interact with the community and give thanks back to them by returning something back to the community,” Stasi said.
Community members interested in contributing to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 8 can send checks to PO Box 2172, Durango CO, 81302. They can also drop off a donation at Durango Police Department and the department will route the checks to Stasi, he said.