Saturday was Christmas shopping day for 11-year-old Silver Holmes, of Brookfield. But it was unlike any other trip to the store she’d ever made. In the first place, she received a police escort motorcade (lights flashing and sirens wailing) to Wal-Mart in Hodgkins. Second, she had $100 to spend, courtesy of the Brookfield Police Department.
She was on a mission to buy gifts for her two brothers, stepbrother and sister. While she tries to buy her siblings something every year, the gifts are usually a bit more modest.
“I can actually afford [nicer gifts],” said Holmes before embarking on her quest. “I usually have to go to the dollar store or something.”
Brookfield police made the season a little brighter for Holmes and 14 other Brookfield kids on Saturday morning, taking them shopping at the nearby big box retailer as part of the department’s inaugural “Shop with a Cop” day.
“Shop with a Cop” is a program Police Chief Steven Stelter participated in for 15 years as a member of the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office. He wanted to bring it to Brookfield and solicited donations from department vendors. He also got unexpected and generous support from Brookfield citizens, several of whom participated in the department’s Citizens Police Academy. One of those members was the single largest donor to the cause, at $400.
In all, Brookfield police raised $2,200 and set about selecting 15 local children between the ages of 8 and 14 to take shopping on Dec. 12.
According to Lt. Edward Petrak, who was the department’s point man for the program, police contacted local schools, who aided in identifying children. Each child was given a $100 limit to buy whatever he or she wanted.
Most kids, even ones who initially said they were shopping for gifts for themselves, ended up making purchases for family members.
On Saturday, Petrak was paired with Hollywood School fifth-grader Chris Hervas, 11. Hervas, who participated in a similar program at another school a few years ago, appeared thrilled at the prospect of another go-round.
“I feel like I’m making Hervas history,” he said of his Brookfield experience. Hervas wanted to find gifts for his grandparents and for his mom. He wanted to get his mom some jewelry, but said he’d consider “whatever I can find that makes her happy.”
Sitting in the Brookfield council chambers before the trip to Wal-Mart, 10-year-old Jamhad Taylor, a fifth-grader at Congress Park School, said his dad had told him to get something for himself.
Later that morning, Taylor, who was joined by Stelter and his wife, Laura, did get a couple of things for himself – a Lego set and a Hot Wheels race track. He also had a shopping cart full of gifts for his family – his two sisters, two brothers, mom and dad.
“They do stuff for me, too,” Taylor said, with a grin.
Officer William Klein and Citizens Police Academy alumna Helen Clarke escorted S.E. Gross Middle School eighth-grader Daniela Pimentel, 13, through the toy aisles.
According to Klein, Pimentel got a kick out of the police car motorcade to the store and provided some insight into how kids who at first were thinking mainly of buying gifts for themselves changed their minds once they got to the store.
“She said the first thing she wanted to do was buy clothes, but she went right for the toys,” Klein said. “I think this is a great thing the chief did, bringing this to Brookfield.”
She picked out two dolls – one for her and one for her sister, Marissa – along with a DVD for her dad.
“This is the first time I actually was able to get what I wanted, so it’s pretty cool,” Pimentel said.
After spending a little over an hour at the store, the cops and kids lined up to pay for the gifts and brought them back to the village hall to wrap them and have lunch.
For the kids, the program was a hit, judging from the smiles and gifts. But it was also positive for the officers, according to Petrak.
“We’ve done things for the St. Barb’s Food Pantry and Toys for Tots before, but this is something where you get to see the results,” Petrak said. “It not only benefits the kids, but we get a good feeling out of it, too.”