For two years, the Fillmore County Salvation Army Service Unit and other county organizations have put together opportunities for a few children throughout the county to come together on one day in August to "Shop With a Cop."

The Minnesota "Shop With a Cop" program began in 2000 in St. Paul and provides the opportunity to create a trusting and good relationship with officers in a city rather than a negative one. The program itself is nation-wide giving children the chance to shop for the holidays.

Similarly, organizations in Fillmore County adopted the same idea in the hopes the officers here may also develop good relationships with children.

"The program is designed to allow the kids to develop good relationships with officers in a positive experience. It may give them the chance to see them as heroes and safe people to go to in times of trouble," described Anne Detlefson, one of the organizers of the event.

"We want the kids to foster good relationships with them and respect them as opposed to preconceived notions of who they are that the kids get from television. Sometimes that relationship can last long after the program is over," she added.

Locally, up to 15 children of third grade age have the opportunity to go shopping for school supplies, clothing, jackets or anything else they need with an officer from their community.

These children may be from Harmony, Preston, Rushford, Spring Valley, Chatfield or any other town or area within the county itself. Generally, the officers volunteering to shop with the kids come from the same communities.

The first year the program was initiated, they all gathered in Spring Valley to shop at Alco. Last year they traveled to Preston to shop at Julia Claire's Repeat Boutique.

Each child is given money the Salvation Army gathered in the red kettles throughout the county during the holiday season. In this way, the Salvation Army returns donated money to the community.

Fillmore County's "Shop With a Cop" takes place in August prior to the beginning of the school year. Rather than shopping for the holidays, the officers and children shop to prepare the kids for the new school year.

For this third year, "Shop with a Cop" again will be traveling to Preston and stopping by JuliaClaire's Repeat Boutique. Trish Keating, owner of JuliaClaire's appreciates the opportunity to participate in this program.

"It's a good program to build trust with the officers and it's a way to give back to the community. It is not about making money. The idea is to make the program affordable for the kids," Keating stated.

But not everything can always be found at JuliaClaire's. So Keating found a solution to make sure officers and children do not have to travel from store to store to find all their supplies.

"Some of the items we do not stock, like socks, so we purchase those as well as other items that we may not have. We are trying to streamline the shopping experience so we will have all the items from other stores such as Kleenex, Band Aids and snacks from Preston Foods here and ready for the kids," she noted.

Being able to put an event like this together is very unique considering how rural Fillmore County is.

"The program was designed for more urban communities. There are many different variables in order to put it together. Distance and places to shop are a few. Participants may also know officers volunteering," related Detlefson.

Finding the right place to shop does not have the easiest solution.

"There are not many places for them to shop at the right prices in the county. And distance is an issue too. This is a big county so we need to arrange it so the kids can make it. The officers also have to travel a ways to get here," Detlefson said.

According to her, the officers enjoy the opportunity to develop one-on-one relationships with the kids who participate in their shopping excursion.

"Some officers work their night shift and come for the Shop With a Cop because they enjoy it," Detlefson added. "The officers look forward to it every year."

After the shopping is concluded, the officers give the kids a ride in the police cars to B&B Olympic Bowl. There the kids bowl with the officers and eat pizza provided by the owners.

Detlefson makes certificates for the officers to give the kids for accomplishments such as the straightest shop.

"Kids love awards. It is something positive to come away with. We also give them a photo of themselves with the officers to remember the day," Detlefson concluded. "The kids feel special. It is our big event for the year."