published Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Blue-light specials: Shop with cop

Officer Geison Silveira talks with Larry Gaines Jr., 5, and Paradise Gaines, 7, while helping them shop for back-to-school supplies Saturday morning. The International Brotherhood of Police Officers No. 5673 hosted its annual Back to School Shop with a Cop event at Walmart on Signal Mountain Road.
Officer Geison Silveira talks with Larry Gaines Jr., 5, and Paradise Gaines, 7, while helping them shop for back-to-school supplies Saturday morning. The International Brotherhood of Police Officers No. 5673 hosted its annual Back to School Shop with a Cop event at Walmart on Signal Mountain Road.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

The decisions were many for second-grader Paradise Gaines as she perused the plastic pencil pouches at Walmart on Saturday morning during the back-to-school tax-free weekend.

"There's so many things I want," said the Rivermont Elementary student, standing with her mother and little brother, Larry. She examined pencil bags with polka dots or butterflies before settling on one decorated with cupcakes.

With the start of school just one week away, members of a local police union took 55 children shopping with their parents or guardians at the Signal Mountain Road store.

"There's still good people in the world," Rhonda Harrison said as she pushed a shopping cart, with Paradise and Larry nearby. "It means a lot because it does add up. Every year the list changes and gets longer and longer."

Members of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local No. 673, which represents 250 law enforcement officers employed by Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, contacted area elementary schools to help them select families.

"The principals came back and with some of the most neediest families' names," said Chattanooga Police Detective Tim Tomisek, who is president of the union.

Each child had a $150 budget. Officers walked around the store with the child's family and siblings and purchased school supplies on the school's list. They also helped purchase clothing for children.

With so many uniformed officers walking around, kids' sometimes rambunctious behavior was at a minimum. One young boy left his mother's side and raced down an aisle pushing a cart -- a stunt that normally would go unchecked.

On Saturday, he rolled up on a couple of uniformed officers who yelled "Stop!" in unison. He froze, then carefully backed the buggy away.

Tomisek said officers' goals for the event are to help families in need and build relationships between the department and local residents.

"It's tough to bridge that gap between law enforcement and the community," he said. "Stuff like this helps to do that."

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