Breaking News Bar
updated: 12/3/2017 4:44 PM

Wauconda community rallies to help kids celebrate holidays

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Wauconda police Community Service Officer Juan Acosta checks out toys and clothes with Jacniel Torres, who is from Puerto Rico and is staying with a relative after being displaced by Hurricane Maria, during the police department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event Sunday.

      Wauconda police Community Service Officer Juan Acosta checks out toys and clothes with Jacniel Torres, who is from Puerto Rico and is staying with a relative after being displaced by Hurricane Maria, during the police department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event Sunday.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Jacniel Torres enjoys shopping with Community Service Officer Juan Acosta on Sunday during the Wauconda Police Department's first Shop with a Cop event.

      Jacniel Torres enjoys shopping with Community Service Officer Juan Acosta on Sunday during the Wauconda Police Department's first Shop with a Cop event.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda police officers and area students gather in front of the Super Target in Mundelein Sunday for the department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event.

      Wauconda police officers and area students gather in front of the Super Target in Mundelein Sunday for the department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Children from Wauconda-area schools descend the steps of a Wheeling Township van on Sunday before the start of the Wauconda Police Department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event.

      Children from Wauconda-area schools descend the steps of a Wheeling Township van on Sunday before the start of the Wauconda Police Department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda police Det. Kristan Kolar helps purchase items Sunday during the police department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event at the Super Target in Mundelein.

      Wauconda police Det. Kristan Kolar helps purchase items Sunday during the police department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event at the Super Target in Mundelein.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda Police Chief David Wermes enjoys Shop with a Cop Sunday.

      Wauconda Police Chief David Wermes enjoys Shop with a Cop Sunday.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 

Marjolyn Torres learned all about long lines after Hurricane Maria hit her native Puerto Rico in September.

The 14-year-old, who's now a student at Wauconda High School, said there were "lines for everything. For gas, for food, for water."

On Sunday, Torres and her brother, Jacniel, experienced lines again, but this time they were lines of carts filled with gifts for the holiday season, courtesy of the Wauconda community.

The Torres siblings were among 20 children from Wauconda-area schools given the chance to spend $150 on clothes and toys at Super Target in Mundelein during the Wauconda Police Department's inaugural Shop with a Cop event.

The event was a tribute to the department's ability to mobilize quickly, as well as the community's ability to open up its heart and its wallet to help children from needy families. That included the Torres siblings, who came to Wauconda to live with an aunt after the hurricane devastated much of Puerto Rico.

"The community jumped right on it. Once we put it out there that we were doing this, the community support was unreal," said Officer Jim McClain, who led the effort along with Det. Kristan Kolar.

Not only were 20 children sponsored within days, but Middleton's on Main donated breakfast for the families, who also received gifts from Santa during the meal.

The group arrived at the Target in Wauconda Township and Wauconda Park District vans that entered the parking lot under police escort shortly after the doors opened at 7 a.m. Sunday.

It didn't take long to fill the shopping carts as the officers and their guests roamed the aisles in the quest for holiday merchandise.

Officer Joshua Marshall and Matthews Middle School student Amanda Vepley, who enjoys coloring, fished for art supplies.

Officer Sandro Palomares was paired with Douglas Morales, a first-generation student whose family is from Mexico, and conversed with him in Spanish.

Palomares, whose family came to the United States from Mexico in the 1970s, said several of the students are first-generation kids.

"Just like I had the opportunity, I hope that they have the same opportunity to be someone and to get a good education," he said.

Community Service Officer Juan Acosta, who helped fill Jacniel's cart with Snoopy pajamas and Star Wars and Spiderman toys, remembers when he participated in Shop with a Cop in another community as a grade school student.

"It was nice, because we had a big family and my dad was the only breadwinner, so we couldn't really have what we wanted," he said. "Although it has been a while, it's something that you don't forget. To be able to give back is very rewarding."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.