FOREST CITY | Kids chosen for a special Christmas shopping trip made friends with law enforcement officers earlier this month.
The children, who attend elementary school in the Forest City, North Iowa and Lake Mills districts, came in shifts to Shopko on Dec. 10, where they were paired with a law enforcement officer to help them shop.
The kids were each allowed to chose one gift for themselves during the annual Shop with a Cop event, but it had to be something they needed, such as coats, boots or snow pants.
After that they used the rest of the $100 allotted to each of them to shop for toys, books, video games, clothes and other items as presents for family members.
Some children came with a list of what they wanted for themselves and for others, but officers made suggestions if they didn't.
"Do you like 'Star Wars'?" Deputy Ben Jordskog asked one boy who was looking at sweatpants with movie and comic-book themed designs while trying to pick out his own gift.
Some of the children were very talkative and told the officers about themselves and what they thought their family members would like for Christmas.
The officers who helped the kids shop were from the Forest City, Buffalo Center and Lake Mills police departments, as well as the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office.
"I just enjoy helping the kids," said Sheriff Dave Peterson. "It's fun to talk to the kids."
He said Shop with a Cop gives the children "a different perspective" on law enforcement and gives them a chance to interact with officers so they see the cops are not just "someone who writes their mom or dad a ticket."
"Cops are getting such a negative rap that it's nice to be involved in something positive," he said.
Winnebago County Deputy Brett Wilson brought the department's K-9, Yeira, with him to Shopko so the kids could meet the German Shepherd, who is friendly despite her imposing appearance.
After they finished shopping, the children were taken to TSB Bank, where members of the Forest City Rotary Club and their spouses helped them wrap their gifts.
The kids also enjoyed pizza, pop and cookies in the bank's community room.
Signe Meiders, wife of Rotarian Scott Meinders, said this is the second year she's helped wrap presents.
"It's always fun to meet some cool kids," she said.
The Shopko Foundation contributed $1,000 toward Shop with a Cop. The Forest City Rotary Club matched that amount. The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department received donations from the community for the shopping expedition and contributed those toward the effort.
"We are very grateful to Shopko for allowing us do do this," Peterson said.