An Oregon Police Department program is seeking to help those who might be less fortunate in the community.

That’s where Shop with a Cop comes in — a program that “strives to create a positive interaction between law enforcement and the community by helping economically disadvantaged children shop for gifts for their families during the holiday season,” according to the Shop with a Cop Dane County website.

This year, three Oregon Police Department officers took three kids from the Oregon School District to Target on Madison’s east side at 4301 Lien Rd. Dec. 2.

OPD Shop with a Cop coordinator officer Kyle Schewe said each child had around $175 to spend. He said the kids bought everything from toys and games to clothes and personal essentials.

“Some buy for themselves,” Schewe told the Observer. “Others buy for pets and (family members).”

After shopping, the group stopped at VFW Post 1318 at 133 E. Lakeside, Madison to wrap gifts and eat some lunch. They then stopped at Oregon Frozen Yogurt at 856 Janesville St. for a free sweet treat.

Shop with a Cop is funded entirely through donations from individuals and local businesses.

OPD partners with law enforcement agencies throughout Dane County to make the program a reality.

“We meet throughout the year and plan out the big day,” he said.

A ‘proud’ parent

Jessica Maxwell, mom of Shop with a Cop attendee and Brooklyn Elementary School student Kiera Maxwell, 9, said she wanted her daughter to think of the trip as a reward for her academic progress. Kiera used to struggle with math, but is now at the top of her class.

“(Kiera) just totally turned (her grades) around,” Jessica told the Observer. “I was very proud of her because she’s worked very hard.”

Beyond the uniform

Maxwell said programs like Shop with a Cop reinforce for children that there is a person behind the uniform, and that police officers are employed to keep the public safe. For Schewe, the program helps build trusting relationships with local law enforcement, as the officers become “role models.”

“You really feel like you made a difference and made the holiday season a little easier,” he said. “It’s a more proactive approach of policing.”

The OPD accepts donations throughout the year for its Shop with a Cop program. To donate, send a check indicating it’s for the program to 383 Park St.

For general information, call 835-3111.

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.