Shop with a Cop event lends a hand

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Jayden Grullon rides a shopping cart being pushed by Nashua Police Officer Andrew Kibarian during the Shop with a Cop event Saturday morning at Target on Amherst Street in Nashua.

NASHUA – As Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie put it, the Target store on Amherst Street was the safest of them all throughout New England Saturday morning while 25 uniformed officers helped kids in the community do some holiday shopping.

The Nashua Police Patrolman’s Association and the Gate City Striders sponsored the event, where 25 children paired off with police officers to pick out gifts for themselves and for family members. With $100 each, the kids eagerly embraced their new uniformed friends and ventured up and down the aisles picking out the perfect gifts. Although they were given $100 to shop with, officer and treasurer of NPPA Michael Sullivan, said in past years it has not been uncommon for the kids to go a bit over their budget, in which case he has seen officers spread a little extra holiday cheer.

“Some kids do go over and officers will take care of that themselves,” Sullivan said.

However, aside from occasionally covering additional costs out of their own pocket, more importantly, the officers are establishing relationships with the youth.

“It’s a great way for us as a police organization to interact with the kids that we deal with, because some of the guys that nominated kids have dealt with mom and dad on like a domestic call or uncontrollable child,” Sullivan said.

In building these bridges that officers crossed with their new-found buddies Saturday morning, officer Andrew Kibarian met his new friend, Jayden Grullon, 6, and grabbed a cart before looping the store and getting to know one another. This was Kibarians first year participating in the Shop with a Cop event, and after helping Grullon pick out a robe for his grandmother, he said Grullon is a good guy.

“We don’t usually get to spend much time with the kids, because we’re dealing with adults and bad situations, so it’s good to do this in a positive light and spend time with the kids,” Kibarian said.

Sullivan said the kids typically put together a list with their parent/guardian in advance and each child, in grades one through six, are nominated by officers, DCYF and schoolteachers. The initiative started off slightly smaller, targeting just 20 kids, but has since grown to include 25 this year. Also, aside from shopping, volunteers helped wrap the gifts as well.

Sullivan said doing this event helps officers learn about the children and what gifts they are buying and who is in their family. He said it’s just a good hour or so of fun that allows them to put some action to some words.

“We try to reach as many kids as possible every year and make a difference in their lives, and maybe the fruits of our labor won’t be seen this year, but down the road,” Sullivan said.

Lavoie said NPPA does an incredible job with the event and that this is a real benefit for the community. Prior to the shopping spree, Lavoie looked around at all of the officers gathering together in the front of the store and said he was very happy to see them giving back like this.

“A good number of these officers worked last night, and they didn’t get off until 7 a.m. or 8 a.m.,” Lavoie said. “They haven’t even been to bed yet, and they’re here giving their time to help out.”

That was the case for at least four to six of the officers present at the start of the event at 9 a.m., and in recognizing that and everyone’s effort Lavoie said, “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.