MICHIGAN CITY – Eighty La Porte County residents with special needs were treated to lunch and a shopping spree at Walmart during the sixth annual Shop with Our Cops initiative on Monday.

“As we enter into the holiday and Christmas season for 2018, the Michigan City Police Department always tries to pick an activity that gives back to our community,” Police Chief Mark Swistek said. “And this is one of our best outreach programs.”

Officers were paired up with learning disabled children and adults, and helped them shop for everything from toys and electronics to clothing and home goods.

The participants came from Paladin, the Share Foundation for the Handicapped, the Social Learning Institute and Michigan City High School.

“These are people who are often overlooked, so we wanted to make sure that we reached out to them,” Swistek said.

What started as an initiative for kids from low-income families developed into the annual event as it’s celebrated now.

Sgt. Chris Yagelski said this group of participants has been asked back every year for the last three or four years.

“We like to shop with people who are really deserving,” Yagelski said. “And they just appreciate it so much. It’s a heartwarming feeling to do this for them.”

In addition to the MCPD, volunteers from the Citizens Police Academy and other community organizations help participants shop.

Walmart provides all the food, drinks and necessary supplies for the lunch event; and community sponsors provide funding for the gift cards.

Swistek extended “a big thank you to ACME Communications, Members Advantage, NIPSCO, Midwest Metal Products, and all the other various community groups that help support this every year.”

He also recognized Jaime “Superstore Jaime” Weinstein, a department manager at Walmart, for coordinating the massive effort every year so all the officers and participants have to do is show up and enjoy.

“I enjoy doing this because seeing the looks on their faces and the excitement they get … reminds us to always appreciate the little things,” Weinstein said. “The little things in life give us … the most meaningful memories.”

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