Not on a Saturday.
That was 16-year-old Monique Garcia’s first thought when her parents told her she’d have to wake up extra early on Dec. 12.
The Sonora High School student works hard — she maintains a 4.2 grade point average, runs a food bank at her school and has helped organize a Toys 4 Tots drive this holiday season.
For her, Saturdays are sacred sleep-in days.
But when she pulled up to Target with her younger siblings just before 8 a.m. and learned why she was there, Garcia was more than OK with the early morning wake-up call.
Garcia was one of 10 students from the La Habra City School District picked to shop with a La Habra PD employee for the inaugural Heroes and Helpers event at Target on Imperial Highway.
“I’m surprised that someone would do this for me,” she said, leaning on a red shopping cart filled with clothing. “It still hasn’t hit me.”
Target donated $1,000 to give $100 gift cards for the children and teens to go shopping.
“I think it just seems right to have the students shop with an officer — it’s someone they can look up to and talk to who is real and a great role model,” said Marie Maya, executive team leader of assets protection at Target. Target and La Habra PD “both believe in the same thing — that having a positive role model for our children is so important.”
The children and teens chosen for the shopping spree were picked by principals at their schools because they are good students, good citizens and their families are facing some kind of hardship, financial or otherwise.
Mike McElroy, child welfare and wellness coordinator at the school district, said events such as these highlight why it is important to reach out to local families in need.
“We’ve had homeless families in our district triple in the last 12 months,” he said, explaining that homeless includes families living in motels or multiple families in one-bedroom apartments. “There is more of a need in our community, especially at Christmastime, so it’s nice to help.”
Members of the La Habra PD walked with the students as they perused aisles and picked out some items from their Christmas lists.
Some even grabbed gifts for family members so they’d have something to give Christmas day.
Garcia’s younger brother, Pedro Garcia, 9, was more of a practical shopper in comparison to his counterparts.
He made a beeline for the clothing section to stock up on things he said he needed.
“I just want clothes and new running shoes,” the fourth grader said. “I just like to run a lot and I’m more into sports, not toys.”
Communications Operator Elissa McDougall helped him pick out a jacket, shoes and pants, ensuring everything fit correctly.
“I’ll give you a hint: get it a little bigger so you can wear it longer,” the mom of two young sons, told Pedro. “I wanted a boy to shop with because I know how to shop for boys.”
After all the students purchased their items and posed for a photo with Bullseye, the Target mascot, they left with huge smiles and full shopping bags.
School Resource Officer Jason Sanchez said the department hopes to partner up with Target to make the event an annual holiday tradition.
“This is a community outreach with our students so we can extend a hand and help them out this season,” Sanchez said. “This is what we do. This is what La Habra PD is all about.”