Wal-Mart was once again filled with law enforcement members from all over Jones County Dec. 9 as the third annual Shop with a Cop event was held.

Representatives from the Anamosa State Penitentiary, Anamosa and Monticello police departments, Jones County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol were paired up with middle schoolers from each Jones County school, either from Anamosa, Midland, Olin or Monticello.

Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver, whose department has participated all three years, said the event is a great opportunity for he and his deputies to make connections with kids throughout the community and allow them to “see beyond the badge.”

“Any time that we can have the public, and more importantly children, see us as more than just police officers who make arrest or write tickets…maybe down the road that will help them be more comfortable in the presence of a police officer,” he said.

Dimitrius Bowens, with the Anamosa State Penitentiary, has also been involved all three years. While the penitentiary may not serve the exact same function as the rest of the law enforcement in the county, he said it was still a great opportunity for outreach.

“We’re not actually in the field, like some of the law enforcement officers that are attending today, but we are still a part of the justice system and want to let the kids know that there are all sides of the justice field,” he said. “That’s why we volunteered to do this.”

Once again, the program was able to serve 60 kids, matching the total from last year’s event. Each child received a $100 gift card to spend, all of which was supported through donations and grants.

Each child is paired with a law enforcement representative who helps them select gifts for those on their Christmas shopping lists and then helps them wrap their selected items.

For both Bowens and Graver, that time they get to with the kids that keeps them coming back.

“When I walk around with the kids…they realize it’s not all about them. They’re willing to give back to their siblings, mother and father. That’s a big eye opener for me. I really enjoy that they’re willing to give back to someone else,” Bowens said.

“The two kids that I’ve had previously know my name now, and when they see me on the street, they say hi,” Graver said. “That’s what this is all about. Without this opportunity, maybe they wouldn’t have the opportunity to know me or me to know them.”

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