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A Season of Giving for Westmoreland County Police

by Samantha Taraboletti

“Shop with a Cop” is an event where 300 children get a $150 shopping trip with Pennsylvania State Troopers and municipal department police officers at Wal-Mart’s across Westmoreland County. Walmart also provides each child with a coat and other cold-weather essentials, such as hats and gloves. This year’s “Shop with a Cop” will take place Dec. 18 through Dec. 20.

Pennsylvania State Trooper Steve Limani, from Troop A- Greensburg, began the annual event for disadvantaged children in Westmoreland County in 2009 because he wanted to give back to the demographic of people that he felt for- disadvantaged children. He also started the event because he wanted to break down the barriers between police and these children, because the only time these children really came into contact with police was because of unfortunate situations.

“When I first started this program as a Trooper, I thought I would be the one helping these kids have a better Christmas. After taking the children shopping and watching them buy items like flowers for their mother’s grave and pajamas for other foster kids they live with, it was then that made me understand the true meaning of Christmas,” said Limani.

Municipal police officers from around Westmoreland County participate in the annual event as well. Last year, three officers from the Scottdale Police Department helped with the event: Chief of Police Barry Pritts, Patrolmen Matthew Zelenak, and Patrolmen Michael Whipkey.

Chief Pritts echoed the sentiments of Trooper Limani when he said, “The most rewarding experience is the opportunity to interact with younger children in a positive way, rather than during a negative situation. One-on-one contact for them to see that police are just people like them – not the boogey man who is going to take you to jail.”

Limani arranges fundraisers throughout the year for “Shop with a Cop”, such as golf outings. Last year, Limani raised $60,000 for the event, breaking the record from previous years.

Patrolmen Michael Whipkey agreed with Limani and Pritts when he said, “It’s so much fun to see the smiles and excitement on the children’s faces as they pick out their favorite toys. The program helps families out and for me anytime you get to participate in something that helps others and brings joy around the holiday season it’s extremely rewarding.”

Donations for “Shop with a Cop” are accepted year-round. Contact Trooper Steve Limani at 724-832-6485 for more information.

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