By Blair Ames, email@example.com
12:27 PM EDT, August 20, 2013
Ashlynn Diggs is excited to hit the playground for recess at Cranberry Station Elementary School this year as a first-grader, but before she can jump on the swing set the Westminster Police Department helped prepare her for classes Tuesday.
Diggs, 6, was one of about 40 children who participated in the police department's annual Shop With A Cop program at Dutterer Family Park. The event allows children to partner with a police officer to pick out school supplies donated by the community.
"This helps a whole bunch," said Ashlynn's mother, Candice Diggs.
Carroll County Public Schools welcomes students back to class Aug. 26.
Sgt. Nikki Heuver, who helped Diggs pick out her school supplies, said the event was "absolutely a great time."
"It's great to interact with the community and build a positive relationship with the kids," she said.
While 40 children attended Tuesday's event, 78 children are signed up to receive school supplies this year through Shop With A Cop, according to Sgt. Keith Benfer.
About 110 children received school supplies last year and more than 500 children have received school supplies through the program's six years, Benfer said.
Elementary, middle, and high school students had the opportunity to choose from more than $2,000 worth of school supplies, which included backpacks, notebooks, folders, tissues, erasers, pencils, glue sticks, colored pencils and highlighters.
Benfer said items this year came from Walmart and Five Below.
Any items leftover from the event will be donated to Shepherd's Staff, he said.
Children are recommended for the program by the local bureau of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The police department then contacts the families asking if they would like to participate, Benfer said.
Brenda Perez, who moved to Westminster last year, said the program was a "big help" to her and her four children because she was worried about how she would purchase school supplies as a single mother who is unemployed as she cares for her sick mother.
Perez added that she was "deeply grateful" to the police department.
"I wouldn't know what I would do without this program," she said.