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Dickinson Shop with a Cop partners law enforcement and area youths for a night of shopping

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Sheriff Corey Lee went shopping Thursday with 3-year-old Ashlyn Maule and parent Chelsea Ferguson as part of this year's Shop with a Cop event at Dickinson Walmart. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Officers from the Dickinson Police Department and Stark County Sheriff's Office went shopping with area youths at Walmart Thursday for 2019's Shop with a Cop event.

This year 25 children participated.

The evening went well, Dickinson Police Capt. David Wilkie said.

The event gives underprivileged kids the opportunity to pick up some Christmas gifts for their family or for themselves.

"The kids are really nice, too," he said.

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Each was given a $75 Walmart gift card to spend however he or she wanted, within reason, and after consulting with a parent or guardian.

"You don't want a 10-year-old to get an M rated game if their parents say he can't, and I don't want to be that guy who says he can't," Wilkie said.

The youths were selected from names provided by Stark County Social Services.

"We all work really closely together," Wilkie said. "Those kids are all known to most of us."

The event itself is organized by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, with funds donated previously by ConocoPhillips as well as many continuing private donations.

The Fraternal Order of Police received $400 this year from anonymous sources for the event, Wilkie said.

Several law enforcement organizations participate in Shop with a Cop each year. In addition to Stark County Sheriff's Office, the Dickinson Police were joined by Dunn County officers and U.S. Forest Service.

"We usually have five or six different departments that show up and participate," Wilkie said. "There's a lot of teamwork that's involved."

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Many Stark County deputies are Fraternal Order of Police members, Sheriff Corey Lee said.

"They'll put out an email asking officers to participate and most officers are doing it on their own time," he said. "A couple of deputies were on duty last night, but for the most part it's a volunteer thing."

Lee said he loves participating in the event every year.

"I've been doing it pretty much since I started in law enforcement. It's one of my favorite events," he said.

The best part of the evening is spending time with area youths, Lee said.

"A lot of the kids come from families that are financially strapped sometimes," he said. "Even so, it's good to partner up with kids in general and spend some time with them and help them out in any way we can."

Lee shopped with a 3-year-old who was especially enchanted by all the options available to her.

"She had a good time. Of course, she wanted everything under the sun. Once she got over the shy phase, she was grabbing things left and right," he said.

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The benefits of such a community program are many, Lee said.

"Anytime you can have a sustained interaction with youth, it's a good thing," he said. "We see and interact with kids all day long, but it's that quick minute or two where we're handing them a sticker or a badge, which is good, but it's so much better to have that sustained time where you're developing a rapport with them."

Wilkie called the night "a great event."

"We enjoy doing it every year," he said. "I don't need to twist anybody's arm to participate. That's not always the way it goes. Some of the officers there last night had worked all day. They're taking time from their families to help out . . . and that means a lot also."

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Detective Samantha Okke joined ecstatic youths Natalie and Nicole Van Wagner for an evening of shopping Thursday as part of 2019's Shop with a Cop event. Officers from multiple agencies were partnered with 25 youths this year. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

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