Arlington Police take local kids shopping for the holiday

ARLINGTON — The annual “Shop with a Cop” program began in Snohomish County with less than half a dozen families in 2003, and after growing to the point that they were eventually able to help dozens of families each year, the program abruptly downsized to just more than half a dozen families this year.

The Fraternal Order of Police, which had sponsored the event in previous years, was no longer able to do so this year, so the Arlington Police Department took advantage of the $2,500 grant they’d received from the recently opened Smokey Point Walmart, by using some of those funds to take a few local children in need on a shopping trip to that same Walmart store on Dec. 22.

“We contacted Support 46 and the elementary school counselor to ask them which kids they knew who could benefit from it the most,” Arlington Police Officer Lisa Wojciechowicz said. “We wanted to give kids who have personal tragedies in their lives and their families some positive experiences with law enforcement.”

Shelby Jackson, 11, used all her shopping money to buy presents for family members, including her two siblings and her cousin.

“I spent most of my money on my cousin, since she’s in foster care now,” Jackson said. “I got my brother a Nerf gun and my sister a Zu Zu Pet. This is a great opportunity. Last year, my siblings got to do this, so this year, it’s nice that I get to go shopping.”

Destiny Deveney, 13, bought gifts for her sister, 8-year-old Alissa Grinde, and her best friend, 12-year-old Mina Hagins, both of whom also got to shop with Arlington Police officers that day. Deveney enjoyed being able to get gifts for her brothers and her grandmother as well, but she agreed with Jackson that riding in the backseat of a patrol car was less than comfortable.

“I had to put my arms behind me when I sat down, because that’s how the seats were molded,” Deveney said.

“The only time I want to ride in the back of a patrol car is during ‘Shop with a Cop,’” Jackson said.

Lexi Vanney, 10, had more fun during her patrol car ride, since she got to turn on the lights and sirens. While she made sure to get her mom a cake pan and her grandmother some lipstick, she also got a DVD of “Twilight: Eclipse” for herself and a pink wig for her dog.

“I thought she might want to look like a pop star,” Lexi Vanney said.

Lexi’s mom, Melissa Vanney, is a single mom who’s still recovering from an incident that put her in the emergency room recently.

“I honestly don’t know what we would have done without this,” Melissa Vanney said. “Our Christmas would have been a lot less. Some things that Lexi really wanted, she wouldn’t have been able to get.”

Hagins’ mother, Amanda York, is also a single mom who found herself struggling to make ends meet after a serious injury. A vehicular collision in June “shattered” the right side of her body, to the point that her medical bills are already in the thousands of dollars, and she still has a fifth surgery pending.

“I’ve always been able to support myself and my kids,” York said. “They’ve been so good to me since the accident. They’re always asking me, ‘Mommy, can we rub your broken foot?’ My oldest even knows how to make coffee for me now,” she laughed.

“All these kids were told they could buy things for themselves, but your girls spent all their money buying things for others,” Arlington Police Detective Mike Phillips told her.

York laughed again when she learned that Hagins and her cousin, 11-year-old Taylor Upthegrove, had bought Axe Body Spray for Hagins’ father. Loren Upthegrove, Taylor’s father, is a man of few words, but he nonetheless expressed his gratitude for the “Shop with a Cop” program, since his own family is still adjusting to his wife’s death in August.

“Having this means a lot,” Loren Upthegrove said.

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