Ryan Quanrud’s head was spinning Saturday morning as the Rushford police officer took two third-grade girls shopping for back-to-school clothes in Preston.
“Hey Ryan, what size is this?” asked Kayden, 8, one of his shoppers.
“That’s a 7-8,” Quanrud responded. “It’ll be too small for you.”
Then there were shoes to try on, pajamas to pick out, and a basket of school supplies to lug out the door.
“I’d say it was a 10,” said Quanrud in rating the experience. “Now I know how to shop with girls. I’m sure I’ll be doing it again next year.”
Quanrud was one of a half-dozen Fillmore County law enforcement officers who took part in the Fillmore County Shop with a Cop program on Saturday. The officers were paired up with 11 third-graders selected by the Fillmore County Salvation Army Service Unit to shop for school supplies, new clothes and other items at Julia Claire’s Boutique in Preston.
The kids and officers met Saturday morning at B&B Bowl in Preston, and drove to the shop in police vehicles.
“When kids go downtown in a squad car, that’s pretty cool,” said Anne Detlefson, an organizer of the annual program.
The kids come from various school districts in Fillmore County. In addition to shopping for new clothes, shoes and coats, they pick up school supplies based on lists from their schools. Each kid gets up to $125 to spend. “This is some of the money the Salvation Army gets from the red kettles at Christmas time,” Detlefsen said. Other items are donated by local merchants.
Careful shoppers were able to pick up jeans, shirts, hoodies, a new backpack, socks, undergarments and pajamas. The clothes were all arranged, by size, in racks in the store, while the school supplies were already placed in laundry baskets for each student. At one point, there was a long line at the fitting rooms as girls —and boys — waited to try on clothing.
“I love serving the community, that’s what we’re all about here,” said Trish Keating, owner of Julia Claire’s. She said an all-volunteer staff at the store worked on the project for four months. “What I love most is that these kids have the opportunity to start school at the same level as the rest of the children,” she said.
The goal of the program, Detlefsen said, is to give the kids a positive experience involving law enforcement officers.
And it works, said Lance Boyum, a Fillmore County sheriff’s deputy, who took two boys shopping in his patrol vehicle. “It’s a good time,” he said. “I think the kids like it, too. It’s nice to have that positive interaction, to talk to them in a positive way.”
After the shopping excursion, everyone met back at B&B’s for bowling and pizza.
First though, there was an extra treat for Quanrud’s shoppers. “Can we go for a ride?” they called from the back seat of his squad as he drove into the bowling alley parking lot.
“You want to go for a ride? O.K.,” the officer said, and pulled back out onto the road.
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