MIDDLETOWN >> You couldn’t see their smiles because of their masks, but you knew they were there.
During this year’s Shop With A Cop experience, smiles were everywhere, from the cops to the kids, as officers took youngsters on a holiday shopping spree of a lifetime.
For the third year, Shop With A Cop took place inside the Target store in Middletown Township as cops from Newtown Township and Newtown Borough, Upper Makefield, Northampton, Middletown, Lower Southampton and New Hope traded their police cruisers for shopping carts to make the season brighter for local families facing an economically challenging holiday season.
The event teams officers with kids who are each given a $150 gift card to shop for gifts and other household essentials, from clothing and earbuds to cosmetics, toys and lots more, for themselves and their loved ones.
The children were primarily from the Council Rock and Neshaminy school districts identified by social workers and nurses as eligible recipients.
“We have Chiefs here. We have people from the District Attorney’s Office. We have guys who worked midnight shift and stayed over to help us out,” said Newtown Township Police Cpl. Paul Deppi, who helped organize the event.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed and humbled by the reaction from the families and the appreciation,” he said. “The officers are excited to help these kids have a great Christmas. And we know on that special morning they are going to wake up happy. We’re happy to be a part of that.”
For Newtown Township Police Officer Jules Ferraro, this was his third time participating in the event. And he said he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“This is amazing. It’s a wonderful experience,” he said. “Anything I do that gives me the chance to be around kids is thrilling for me. I just love it.”
As Ferraro maneuvered a shopping cart through the aisles of the store, another officer was attempting to flag him down for a picture.
“Can’t you see I’m working here,” said Ferraro as he followed his shopping partner from Council Rock through a maze of merchandise, keeping an ongoing tab of everything finding its way into the cart, from clothing and baby dolls to a dust buster, some slippers and some other good stuff.
The best part, said Ferraro, “is hanging out with this young lady here. If there were more people like her, the world would be a happier place.
“And she’s an excellent shopper,” said Jules. “As a matter of fact, I’m telling her mother she’s not going home. She’s staying here and helping me with the rest of the day.”
Upper Makefield Police Officer Rob Fuchs was busy shopping nearby. He paused to direct a family member to a nearby officer. “I just saw them. They’re over in the women’s pajama section,” he says.
“This is my second time doing this,” he says. “It’s fantastic. Seeing the smiles on their faces, kids helping out their families, kids getting what they want. It’s just so heartwarming. It’s something I’m going to do every year. It’s done well. It’s very organized. And everyone seems to enjoy it.
“It’s cool to talk with them. They’re happy and we have a full shopping cart. What’s there not to like,” he says.
“This is awesome,” adds Newtown Township Officer Kopfer who was experiencing Shop With A Cop for the first time. “In our profession you don’t normally see people in neutral situations like this. And it’s amazing to see their excitement when they see us. It’s refreshing for us and it’s good to help out.”
Not far away, Newtown Borough Police Chief James Sabath was maneuvering a cart filled with clothes and a large, bulky area rug through the narrow clothing aisles. He was joined on the shopping experience this year by Officer Kahn.
“I love it. It’s great,” he said. “I love seeing their happiness as they shop for their friends and family. This whole experience is truly priceless, not just for the kids and their families, but also for the officers and chiefs who participate.”