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Kids learn the spirit of giving – “Shop with a Township Cop”

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Ezra Eby Elementary third grader Jaysan Borhman and Eby fourth grader Breyton Colbeck get ready to “shop with a township cop” with fourth grade teacher Dawn Marvin and Officer Mike Brandt of the Napoleon Township Police Department.

“Shop with a Township Cop” event sparks many smiles

 By John Hummer – Exponent staff writer

The kids couldn’t have been happier. They got to “shop with a township cop” for their loved ones last Thursday – unique in and of itself – and receive a gift from Santa all in the same morning at the Jackson Walmart.

 “This is the best day ever!” exclaimed Angelee Ackley, a third grader at Keicher Elementary in Michigan Center. Her friend, fellow third grader Genevieve Wilcox, then added on, “This is the best day ever because we get to see Santa and we get to shop with a cop!”

The kids who participate in the Jackson County Township and Village Police Officer’s Association “Shop with a Township Cop” event likely would not get that feeling of giving a gift to their loved ones if it were not for this special day.

Officer Kevin Szentmiklosi of the Columbia Township Police Department, who also serves as president of the Jackson County Township and Village Police Officer’s Association, heads up the event. The association contacts participating schools to help identify children for the program.

“It just gets better every year,” said Szentmiklosi. “To be able to give these kids something to buy for their loved ones – who wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise because of financial reasons – and to see them go out and do that is just the most joyful thing that you could ever have.”

This is the sixth year of the event which includes officers from Columbia, Napoleon, Springport, Spring Arbor and Blackman-Leoni townships.

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The association gets contributions from Walmart to allow the kids to shop, Szentmiklosi said. The retail giant also provides a pizza lunch for the kids and all the supplies needed to wrap the gifts for their loved ones.

“They shop for their family and if there’s any money left over they get to buy themselves a gift,” said Patty Lucio, zone supervisor and coordinator of the program for Walmart. “Most of them spend it on their family, right down to their pets.”

Walmart employee Stephanie Miller helped the kids wrap their gifts.

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“It’s really sweet to see all the cops with all the kids,” she said. “I love to help any way I can.”

The association also contributes money they’ve collected through their annual Country and Western Show to buy each participating child a Christmas gift.

“Then Santa comes here and gives it to them,” said Szentmiklosi. “It’s a wonderful thing.” Walmart sets up a Christmas tree in their break room to make for a nice festive atmosphere.

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Columbia Township police officer Kevin Szentmiklosi is mobbed and thanked by kids at the conclusion of the “Shop with a Cop” event at the Jackson Walmart.

“When he walks in, they get all excited,” Lucio said. “That’s my pleasure – to watch their faces. There have been a few tear-jerkers. I’ve had to walk out of the room a couple times.”

Russ Ratkiewicz, Spring Arbor Township police chief, said the event was the best part of his week.

“Just to be able to give back and see these kids’ faces is worth it. It makes me feel good all over,” he said.

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