SHELDON—For years, Sheldon police chief Lyle Bolkema has watched every announcement related to Shopko closings with great interest.
Since Sheldon’s Shop with a Cop program launched 16 years ago, Pamida and later Shopko Hometown always provided a one-stop shop for participants and volunteers to help underprivileged kids buy new school clothes.
After Shopko announced it was closing all of its stores in March, Bolkema wondered how the program would be able to pull off future Shop with a Cop events.
Fortunately, thanks to four local vendors — Bomgaars, Carl’s Footwear, Sweet Puddle Jumpers Boutique and Top Notch Stitching — Sheldon’s Shop with a Cop program was able to continue this year and took place Friday, Aug. 2.
During the event, 53 kids were given $225 Sheldon Dollars to spend at the stores and went shopping alongside volunteers, relatives, members of the Sheldon Police Department and staff from the event’s co-sponsor, Love In the Name of Christ of O’Brien County.
“Doing 53 in a night probably was a pretty big undertaking,” Bolkema said. “Usually, we do about 30 a night. We ran into some scheduling challenges and stuff. When you are dealing with four merchants instead of one, it’s a little trickier.”
Love INC special projects coordinator Jessica Kraayenbrink was nervous about how the event would go since it was essentially like starting from scratch, but thinks it went well considering the circumstances.
“It went about as well as it could go for the first year of shaking things up a lot,” she said.
The second biggest change, minus the loss of Shopko Hometown, was having everyone shop on the same night rather than doing it over two.
“Big change this year,” Kraayenbrink said. “This is actually my sixth Shop with a Cop, so from five years of having a one-stop shop to all of sudden we are going to have multiple shops and there’s going to be one that’s not downtown … logistically, it was a challenge, but a lot of fun.”
At Top Notch, participants were given assigned times to be there based on their last names and the store even offered customization options for the T-shirts, hoodies and hats that were available.
Carl’s Footwear measured students’ feet when they arrived and offered six sneakers — three for boys and three for girls — that they will order and make sure goes to each child.
Sweet Puddle Jumpers had a limited selection for boys, but had plenty to offer girls, including accessories and clothing.
Bomgaars, which typically does not carry much children’s apparel in its Sheldon store, ordered about eight racks worth of kids’ clothes, according to store manager Marc Anderson.
“We were able to get in a special amount of kids’ clothes just because of the event,” Anderson said. “We had extra product that we never had before. We are going to try to stock more kids’ stuff and this will prove that we can sell it.”
Anderson said Bolkema had reached out to him about participating in Shop with a Cop and he was happy to oblige. All four stores stayed open later than normal on Friday to accommodate the crowds.
“Overall, I think it went really good,” said Bolkema, who was stationed at Bomgaars. “I saw kids walking out of here with a lot of stuff, I know that.”
The chief noted getting the larger retailer to participate was crucial since it could offer the largest selection of clothing for young males.
“Bomgaars has always had a heart for the community that we are in,” Anderson said. “Being able to participate, it’s good stuff. ‘What you need . . . When you need it,’ that’s our motto.
“We tried and I wish we could have done more, but we can’t be the shop for a lot of kids’ stuff, but I was really happy with the stuff our office and purchasing staff did get that we normally don’t have.”
Like Bolkema and Kraayenbrink, Anderson is pretty pleased with how the first year of this new partnership went.
“We’re just glad to be part of it and hopefully we can find a way to make it even better and more successful next year,” Anderson said.