NORWICH – Children from throughout the county were paired with a member of the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday for a ‘Shop with a Sheriff’ event, hosted by the Chenango County Law Enforcement Association (CCLEA).
Road patrol deputies took more than a dozen children Christmas shopping at the Norwich Walmart. The children selected for shopping at the event were selected by each school district from Chenango County.
Once paired with their deputies on Saturday morning, they took to the aisles of the store, where each child was permitted to spend $100 on themselves and $50 on their family members for the holidays.
“Can we look for stuff for my grandpa first?” said one participating child to his deputy. “I really don’t need much for me right now.”
One deputy said that his child wanted to head directly to the clothing department for a coat and warm clothes. Other deputies later said the clothing department was a popular section for their chosen children as well.
“I’m so happy we get to do this,” said CCSO Deputy Max Loiselle. “It would have made my day when I was little. Having kids recognize us as friends is awesome.”
Deputy Dustin Smietana said at near the checkout line, “Just the looks on their faces is priceless. They’re so appreciative and so selfless. I’m so glad this turned out so well.”
Smietana added that he is excited the children will have some nice things for the holidays that they were able to select themselves.
A child in the sporting goods section said, “Do I have enough left for this ball? If not, that’s okay, I can put it back.” His paired deputy did some quick math and let his child know that he had plenty of money left to get the ball for himself.
A participating detective said the most popular shopping sections seemed to be the clothing section.
Other popular areas of the store included the toys section, sporting goods and housewares for pillows or fluffy blankets.
Chenango Sheriff Ernest R. Cutting Jr. was in attendance, and received ‘thank yous’ and handshakes from shoppers in the store for what the law enforcement officers were doing for the children.
Shoppers who witnessed the event also took to social media to show their appreciation for the event.
“I just left the Norwich Walmart in tears,” said Kobie Decker Natoli. “I want to recognize and thank the Chenango County Sheriff's who were doing Christmas shopping with children. Watching the kids pick out their treasures, asking if they could have this and that, seeing them running through the toys and clothes, with the officers following behind ... It left me speechless. It simply tore my heart out. It's things like this that make me appreciate my roots even more. To see [deputies] I went to school with, who have children of their own, taking the time to make a difference in the life of a child in need makes me so proud of my hometown.”
Shelly Evans took to Facebook to say, “Their job is not always pleasant, but I am so touched to see these men and women take the time to make one day out of these kids lives special. I was there when everyone was getting ready to go shopping. I am not sure who was more excited, the kids or the deputies. Chenango County is truly blessed!”
Sheriff Cutting said the turnout for the event was fantastic and all involved were truly appreciative.
Deputy Smietana said, “We hope to do this again next year, this was a great success.”
Sponsors for the event included Thomas M. Lindsey Foundation, VonBanks’s Collision and Repair Service Center, Advanced Fire Protection, Norwich Glass, Dunkin’ Donuts, Paynes Craines, Inc., Vitanza & DiStefano Attorneys at Law, Wilson Funeral Home, Skillin’s Jewelers, NBT Bank, R.J. Fahy Funeral Home, Chobani, LLC., Chenango Valley Technologies, Shaver Contracting, Bagnall Electric, Inc., Guys Auto Repair, Natoli & Natoli, LLP., The O’Hara family, Joseph and LouAnn McBride, Mrs. T. Maestro and the Deputy Sheriffs of Chenango County.
The CCLEA hopes that this event will be held annually, growing each year.
“Thank you so much for what you’re doing for the kids,” said a shopper to Sheriff Cutting. “This is just phenomenal.”
“Look at what I got, Mom!” said one child after checking out with her deputy. “Wait, don’t look too much because there’s something for you.”