Santa Cops hit the aisles

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Mia Nuzum, 6, gets some help from Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter in picking out some Christmas gifts during the Fort Dodge Police Association's Santa Cops event at Target on Wednesday.

Officer Max Patkins may be one of the newest officers on the force at the Fort Dodge Police Department, but he was no rookie at the Santa Cops shopping event at Target Wednesday evening.

As a child growing up in Algona, Patkins was on the other end of the shopping cart while an officer helped him pick out Christmas presents.

“When I was 7 or 8 years old, I actually got to do something like this,” Patkins said. “So I’m just honored that I’m able to be a part of it and come back and help as an officer.”

He said being able to come full circle with a holiday tradition like this has been an awesome experience and that he enjoys giving back.

“I really looked up to the police,and that’s kind of why I wanted to pursue a career as a police officer,” Patkins said. “Just giving back to the community and also being those figures that kids can look up to and always have support.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Isabella Gallegos, 7, and Fort Dodge Police Department Detective Molly Anderson check out a nail polish kit at Target during the Santa Cops event on Wednesday evening. Each child was paired with a law enforcement officer and given $130 to spend on Christmas gifts either for themselves or family members.

On Wednesday, Patkins joined 7-year-old Katray Gully walking up and down the toy aisles, where they found some Fortnite V-Bucks and Roblox Robux for the online games, as well as a Nerf gun and a Pokemon action figure.

Gully said he thought it was cool getting to shop with Patkins.

The Santa Cops program, a collaboration of the Fort Dodge Police Association and other area law enforcement agencies, pairs children from low-income families with law enforcement officers for a Christmas shopping spree. The FDPA, which sponsors the event, gets the names of participating children from schools all over Webster County. Around 120 children participated in the Santa Cops shopping sprees on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at Target. Each child received $130 to spend any way they wanted — on gifts for themselves, for others or both.

Target employee Karen Byrne has organized the store’s side of the Santa Cops event for the last five years.

“I absolutely love it,” she said. “Seeing the kids’ faces and talking to them.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Iowa State Patrol Trooper Paul Gardner and Kaden Jones, 6, were paired up for the Santa Cops shop at Target on Wednesday evening.

Byrne recalls one year seeing a little boy who — instead of buying himself toys to put under the Christmas tree — insisted on buying groceries to help his family because his mom had recently had a baby and his father had been laid off at work.

“He got his dad a big thing of bacon because his dad liked bacon,” she said.

While this was Patkins’ first Santa Cops in Fort Dodge, it was Chief Roger Porter’s last. Porter will be retiring from the FDPD in April. He said he’s enjoyed spending time with the kids during this event over the years.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” he said. “You get to see the kids in a different light.”

The community has shown tremendous support for this program, donating the funds for the kids to go shopping, Porter said.

“The public has been outstanding,” he said. “We don’t even have to put out for it anymore — we get a lot of people sending money because they know this time of year is coming around.”

This week, FDPD officers were joined by deputies from the Webster County Sheriff’s Office, troopers from the Iowa State Patrol and officers with the Iowa Department of Transportation, for the event.

After shopping, the children could stop by a gift-wrapping table staffed by Legacy Realty staff to wrap their purchases.

The FDPA has hosted Santa Cops since at least 2000.


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