Belleville -- At least 15 members of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department participated in an event dubbed "Shop With a Cop" on Monday morning at the Belleville Crossing Target store.
They and members of Salvation Army were a big hit with the children they helped with back-to-school supplies.
Target gave 35 students gift cards totaling $81.00 each to shop for back-to-school supplies and from 10 to 11 a.m. those students, who were chosen by the Salvation Army, were able to spend their gift cards for clothes, personal hygiene items, and the basics -- notebooks, pens and pencils, paper, markers and crayons.
Administrators and other personnel from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department met and assisted the children with their shopping.
The students, who ranged in ages from 5 to 18 and are enrolled in grades kindergarten through high school, thought it was cool to shop with a cop.
St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said he wants the children to know that the police are their friends. They are here to protect them, he said.
Like flashing lights on cameras, the students eyes lit up as they gawked at the supplies and decided what things they needed most.
Dillon Schnarr, 18, is a student at Belleville West. He got some binders, pop tarts, tooth brushes, toothpaste and other personnel hygiene products, pens and paper to start the school year off with.
Asked how he felt about the "Shop With A Cop" event, Schnarr said "I think it's a great thing."
Watson was on hand greeting the students, and he told them to get good grades. Watson told them their education was key to determining whether they would be a success or failure in life.
Schnarr enjoyed conversing with the sheriff, he said. And, he thanked him, Target and Salvation Army for their roles in helping the community.
Watson said he was happy to participate with the children because they are very important to him.
"When it comes to kids, I am going to be here. Our motto is to help kids. That's why we do the Scared Straight programs, D.A.R.E. and Explorer Post programs at the Sheriff's Department. We do care about our kids," Watson said.
Angela Grossmann Roewe, a St. Clair County Board Member for District 12, said she heard about the event from the sheriff and felt it was a wonderful program, so she stopped by to give a hand.
"It's a wonderful way to get the students in a back-to-school mood. It feels good to give back. And, also they are very cute," she said.
Harmony Spears, 7, is going to second grade at Avant this school year. Her eyes sparkled as she showed off her pink Barbie lunch bag and other clothe items, pencils, crayons and markers. Nancy Koehler, the sheriff's secretary, said she and Harmony had a blast shopping for her back-to-school supplies. Harmony agreed.
"I am happy. I got a lot of stuff and I need it all for school," she said, chuckling.
Bobby Schnarr, 14, will be a freshman at Belleville West. He said he was excited, but a bit nervous about school.
He was able to get socks, underwear and personal hygiene items. Asked about what he thought about the helping hand he received, he said he was very grateful.
"It's a blessing, and I thank everyone who made it possible," Schnarr said.
His mother, Lisa Schnarr, choked up and her eyes filled with tears as she thanked everyone involved for helping her family.
"I have a 26-year-old son who is dying. He has cystic fibrosis and has had two double lung transplants. Now, he is being taken to some place four hours from here, and I am worried about how I am going to get to him. This help takes some of the financial strain off of us. I am very thankful," she said.
Ciyah Coleman 5, showed off her Barbie lunch box, her "Hello Kitty" notebook and her fancy print jeans. She also got some Barbie underwear and other things.
Watson gave the children bright yellow book packs with the words St. Clair County Sheriff's Department on them. Inside were other goodies for school and some also got small stuffed animals.
Heath Sells, a captain with the Salvation Army said the event was "a partnership with Target."
Nationwide, Target's been generous and philanthropical with their gifts. They know that the Salvation Army works with children across the country. And, here in St. Clair County, 35 children, ages 5 to 18, are getting some assistance with back-to-school supplies.
Some of the children actively participate in programs with Salvation Army and some do not.