Annual Shop With a Cop event moves to Target store
‘You see the faces of the kids, it’s amazing’
KAHULUI — When Raynelle Saito first told her 5-year-old son that a police officer was going to take him shopping for Christmas presents, the boy was hesitant about going.
“A cop took him away from my mom when I was in jail,” Saito said. “He didn’t want to go.”
Any reluctance was gone Sunday morning as Elicah Saito Campbell picked out toys to fill a shopping cart while cruising through the aisles of Target with Maui Police Department traffic officer Justin Mauliola.
“It was really cool,” said Saito, a Kahului resident who just got a full-time job and has been putting aside money “to get (Elicah) a good Christmas this year.”
On Sunday, she also got diapers and toys for her 5-month-old son, Jozaiah.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I appreciate it.”
Now in its 14th year on Maui, the annual Shop With a Cop event drew 45 MPD officers and seven police recruits who volunteered their time to help 40 children pick out gifts at Target before the store opened to other customers.
“This is a good chance for us to give back,” said Mauliola, who has volunteered for the event for the past few years. “I think we enjoy this more than the kids sometimes.”
Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said he was happy to see the children smile, especially when officers dropped gifts into their shopping carts.
“We do it to support the children that need the extra help and also allow the members of the Maui Police Department to mingle with the community and to show the other side of who we are, besides being out there enforcing the law,” Faaumu said. “Our mission is to help the community, and this is another way we do that.”
The Friends of the Children’s Justice Center worked with Child Welfare Services to select the children, who arrived at the Kahului store with their families at 6 a.m. for breakfast. Soon after, the jingling of sleigh bells signaled Santa’s arrival.
Each child received a $100 gift card to spend at Target as part of the event sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Kahului.
“Every year, this is the most feel-good event for us,” said Richard Minatoya, president of the Kiwanis Club of Kahului. “We’re really fortunate that Target has agreed to host the event, and really grateful to them and the men and women of the Maui Police Department for their cooperation in putting this on.”
The event was held at Target for the first time after Kmart, which had hosted Shop With a Cop, closed over the summer.
Target officials readily agreed to step in to help, said Bruce McDonald, a past Kiwanis Club of Kahului president and event coordinator.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “Sometimes, you land in a bed of roses.”
Scott Hayes, general manager of the Kahului Target store, said that the company has partnered with organizations to hold Shop With a Cop events in other locations.
“This is our first opportunity to do it on Maui,” he said. “It’s exciting to see this kind of turnout.”
Kahului resident Tiare Abraham said she was “kind of nervous” after her three daughters were paired to shop with Faaumu and recruits Michael Russell and Scott McCalister.
“Cops make me nervous ’cause I used to be bad,” Abraham said.
She said that her daughters also were nervous about being around police officers, though that seemed to change as officers wheeled three shopping carts filled with clothes and toys for the three girls, ages 3, 6 and 9.
“It’s a lot of help,” Abraham said. “Their dad’s in jail.”
Faaumu and his partner, Deborah Ross, helped 6-year-old Kawai, who wanted to stop first in the clothing section, where she picked out tops and jeans. Then it was on to the toy section.
At the checkout line, in addition to using the girl’s $100 gift card, Faaumu opened his wallet to pay the difference.
“She got everything she wanted,” he said.
For 3-year-old Hina’ea, that included a toy doctor’s kit that she picked out.
“They chose it all,” Abraham said. “They are excited about that.”
Despite initially feeling nervous, “it’s been all right,” Abraham said.
“He’s nice,” she said of Faaumu, who got hugs from the girls and Abraham before the family left.
“I think they did warm up to me and the recruits that were helping,” Faaumu said.
Officer Kamuela Mawae and his 5-year-old son, Micah, helped 2-and-a-half-year-old Joshua Paahana-Maciel pick out toys, including a miniature police car.
“It’s very, very awesome for them to take the time out of their work to do this for the kids,” said Joshua’s grandmother Wanda Moniz of Wailuku. “He’s having fun.”
She said that Joshua’s father lives on the Mainland. She took in her grandson about a year ago, while his mother has been taking classes toward getting back custody.
Through Shop With a Cop, “I figured he can get something I wouldn’t be able to get,” Moniz said. “It’s a blessing for both of us.”
While most police officers were paired with children, Assistant Chief John Jakubczak waited at the checkout line to make up the difference for children whose selections cost more than their gift card covered.
“We like to make sure they get what they want,” Jakubczak said. “You see the faces of the kids, it’s amazing. I look forward to this every year.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.