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Westminster cops seeking angels to put gifts for kids under tree

Westminster cops seeking angels to put gifts for kids under tree
Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding kicks off the department's Shop With a Cop program featuring an "angel tree" with gifts that shoppers can purchase for families in need at Walmart in Westminster Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

A tree grows in Westminster — and police hope that soon a pile of presents for Westminster families will grow beneath it.

On Tuesday morning, the Westminster Police Department and the employees of Walmart in Westminster unveiled this year’s angel tree, decorated with gift tags listing gifts the police and Walmart hope to provide for a family in need this holiday season.

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From coats and pajamas to movies and “Batman toys,” about 250 tags hang from the tree, which is topped with a police cap and finished with twinkling lights.

This year is the 14th of the partnership between Walmart and the police, and Debbie Sabock, Pick Up Today department manager at the Westminster store, has been a part of the process for 13 of those years. She said she has developed a strong rapport with the police department over the years and loves to be a part of the program.

“Every year it gets better,” she said. “For the kids — that’s why I do it.”

Last year, she said the angel tree program collected about 300 gifts for Carroll families.

The gifts purchased for the angel tree will be presented to during the 14th annual Westminster Shop with a Cop event on Saturday, Dec. 9. During the full-day event, the Westminster Police Department will take children to breakfast and shopping at Walmart for gifts for their families before a holiday party later in the day.

Employees of Walmart gathered Tuesday morning to see the unveiling of the tree by police Chief Jeff Spaulding and Walmart manager Pete Perez. The Walmart team presented a check for $2,500 to the police to help sponsor the day’s activities.

“It helps children see police as people, not just authority figures who come to their homes in times of crisis,” Spaulding said. He called the program “truly a win-win” because of the bonds created between the community and his department.

Over the last 13 years, 288 children from 116 local families have been included the program. This year, the police department adopted eight new families with 22 children into the program.

About 20 businesses help to sponsor the gift-giving, including Toyota, which joined this year as a major sponsor.

“We are asking today that our citizens support this effort,” Spaulding said. “It would be a completely different program without the angel tree.”

Perez said his favorite part of last year’s Shop with a Cop event was seeing the expressions on the faces of the children participating.

“It’s priceless for the parents also,” he said.

Shoppers are asked to purchase one of the gifts listed on a tag and place it in the collection box under the angel tree. Walmart will hold the gifts purchased by customers and deliver them to the police, who will wrap the gifts and deliver them to the families.

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