The job duties of a first responder include crime fighting, firefighting, lifesaving, and other heroic acts.
However, in Anaheim, once a year first responders add one more task to their job description: fashion expert.
Kids and teens throughout the city are well into their school year and looking their best thanks to help from Anaheim officers and firefighters.
Before school resumed in July, personnel from the Anaheim Police Department and Anaheim Fire & Rescue arrived promptly at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 31 at the Target at 101 S. Euclid St. in Anaheim.
Equipped with a $125 gift card and clipboard, they spent about an hour engaging in back-to-school shopping with the students.
“The kids here are so great and I love that we get to come shop, have a good time, and make a connection with them,” Anaheim Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Alan Long said. “It’s just nice to be able to impact a life in ways other than responding to an emergency.”
With help from over 80 volunteers, the Orange County Family Justice Center (OCFJC) took 55 kids from kindergarten to high school back-to-school shopping – a luxury that most wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for this event.
“The kids that are chosen for this event specifically need the assistance,” Anaheim Police Det. Ladycarla Cashell said.
In addition to being selected, the students who participated in the event had successfully completed one of the OCFJC’s 10-week prevention or empowerment programs. The programs cover a wide variety of topics ranging from coping with community or family violence to setting boundaries.
“These kids deal with a lot, and unfortunately there can be bullying or harassment that goes on in schools, so being able to give the kids some nice clothes and items to go to school with will hopefully lessen the likelihood of that and make them feel more confident,” Anaheim Police Lt. Willie Triplett said. “This effort will make sure that our kids have the necessary supplies so that they’re able to be successful starting the school year.”
As the final adolescents hopped off a bus to meet with their volunteer shoppers, Target’s clothing aisles became lined with students shopping with police officers, firefighters, city officials, and other adults.
Some students asked their volunteer shoppers for fashion advice, while others knew exactly what they wanted.
“Seeing Gavin’s face light up was really exciting because he knew what he wanted right away,” volunteer Chad Volkerts, from Aramark, said. “It was nice to see him get excited about clothing and new school stuff.”
However, the reasons why community members showed up to volunteer at the event went beyond giving back to the community.
“This is just one way that we could reach out and help the children that make up Anaheim,” Miss Anaheim Hills Valerie Alcaraz said. “Ultimately they’re the ones that are going to grow up and lead this community in the future, so why not start at the younger generation and help them in any way we can?”
After the students finished shopping, they returned to the OCFJC and were given a backpack filled with all the supplies they would need to be successful throughout the school year.
“At the end of the day, we want these kids walking out of here feeling like they don’t have to worry about the little things,” Anaheim Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Mike Molloy said. “They don’t have to worry about what they’re putting on in the morning to go to school or if they have supplies.”