Police and youngsters share the joy at Shop with a Cop

It soon became obvious last weekend at the Westminster Senior Center that there are certainly different approaches to wrapping presents.

Westminster Police Chief Jeffrey Spaulding had a no nonsense approach, cutting fast and flipping a box quickly.

Detective John Emminizer was more meticulous, helping his 7-year-old companion, Caleb, even the sides and wrap tight.

"I do all the gift wrapping at home," Emminizer said with pride. "I'm a perfectionist when it comes to wrapping."

Captain Nancy Yeager's challenge to wrap a microwave oven that her shopping partner, 10-year-old Kaitlyn, bought for her family.

"I'll take any help," Yeager announced to the room.

After a morning of shopping at the Westminster Wal-Mart, members of the Westminster Police Department and 21 children from eight local families gathered at the senior center on Dec. 8, to wrap presents before enjoying lunch with their families, then a visit from Santa.

The annual Shop with a Cop event, in its ninth year in Westminster, is always festive, according to Spaulding, who credits the local community and businesses for their support of the program.

"Each family will have a wonderful holiday," Spaulding said. "All of this is done by donation. We could not do this without the generosity of the community."

An angel tree set up in Wal-Mart yielded more than 280 gifts for the families. All items were purchased by individuals donating the requested items on the tree. The Walmart Foundation also donated cash to the cause, providing a gift card of $150 per child/officer team. In several instances on Saturday when the total went slightly over that mark, the officer dug into his or her own pocket to settle the bill.

In addition, a complete turkey dinner donated by Shoppers Food Warehouse will also be given to each family, as well as various gift cards for food and other items, Spaulding said.

"We have lots of partnerships that ultimately benefit these children and their families," Spaulding said."It's a team effort."

Shop with a Cop also promotes a positive relationship between children and police officers. Each child spent the morning with an officer, even riding in his or her police car. Many of the youngsters were siblings, providing a challenge for all to keep their gifts hidden.

"We stayed at opposite ends of the store," Caleb said of how he and Emminizer avoided his brother, Brayden, 8, in Wal-Mart. At the senior center party, Brayden was only a table away while the wrapping was under way. "We've got to be careful," Caleb warned.

Kaitlyn and Yeager were doing their best to wrap Kaitlyn's brother's gifts first.

"We need to hide that stuff," Yeager said, nodding to some purchases. "Let's do that one and we can hide the other stuff."

But Kaitlyn was more concerned about her brother's purchases ... for her.

"I'm going to hide when he comes in here so I don't see my presents," Kaitlyn said, eyeing the door.

In the main hall, volunteers were busy setting up food for lunch and placing a stocking with each child's name around the tree. At one table sat a group of older ladies, their work already done — they had wrapped the 280-plus presents from Walmart.

"We started the week before Thanksgiving and stopped last weekend," said Betty Green, a resident of Westminster Ridge.

"It gets you really in the spirit," said Gerri Temple, also of Westminster Ridge, of the wrapping.

Spaulding said the day is a celebration for his staff as well as for the children. "This is our holiday," he said. "It's not when you wake up on Christmas morning; it's seeing the faces on these kids."