With most schools starting the new year next week, it’s time for students and parents to double-check their school supply lists and take a trip to the store.
A group of students from several area elementary schools got some extra help with their back-to-school shopping this year, teaming up with law enforcement from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office for a Shop with a Cop event at the Office Depot in Hazel Dell.
The Shop with a Cop concept is already a tradition at multiple Clark County retailers, but Tuesday’s event was a first for Office Depot. It’s also the first time it’s been done as a back-to-school event rather than a holiday season shopping trip, according to several sheriff’s office staff who participated.
“This is the first one I’ve ever done for school supplies, which is cool,” said Detective Joe Swenson, who had previously participated in Christmas gift Shop with a Cop events.
The idea originated with Hazel Dell Office Depot general manager Evonne Woodard, who was inspired by the holiday season Shop with a Cop events that she witnessed during a prior job at a Target in California. She organized the event with help from Office Depot’s regional brand ambassador Dorene Hall.
They reached out to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office about three months ago and got in touch with Kasey Frazier, outreach program assistant, who offered information about how the holiday events are usually organized. Frazier helped coordinate about 20 sheriff’s office staff to join the event.
Hall then turned to the school district, asking for help finding elementary school students who could benefit from participating. Sacajawea, Hazel Dell, Lake Shore, Fruit Valley and Sarah J. Anderson elementary schools all recommended students for the event.
She also gathered a list of school supplies for each grade level, but she said that part was easy — lists provided by the district were already on display at Office Depot.
In the meantime, Hall worked on community outreach to raise money for the gift cards, and she said she found plenty of eager supporters, including multiple Lions Clubs who volunteered to help serve food at a lunch event after the shopping trip.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, 22 students marched into the store, each paired with an officer and armed with a school supply list and $100 gift card.
For most of the students, the first display rack presented the most important decision of the day: the choice of backpack. Fortnite-, unicorn- and Spongebob-themed bags all proved to be popular choices.
From there, it became a scavenger hunt as teams of officers and students weaved through shelves of pencils, paper, notebooks, binders and art supplies. Most of the items on the lists were familiar back-to-school gear, but lists included a few items that came as surprises to parents and officers, such as earbuds and styluses.
“Times have changed,” Deputy Elijah Page commented.
Every cashier station was open as the crowd began to line up in the checkout area. After checking out, the students and their shopping partners were treated to a lunch donated by Burgerville and Jimmy Johns.
Personnel from Clark County Fire District 6 also arrived in a fire engine, giving the students a chance to see the inside of the vehicle.
Woodard said she hopes the back-to-school event becomes an annual tradition at Office Depot and that the success at the Hazel Dell store inspires similar Shop with a Cop events at other Office Depot locations.
“Everything went perfect, absolutely perfect,” she said after the shoppers had finished. “I hope to get it going on across the country.”