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'Shop with a Cop' event helps officers build relationships with families in public housing

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Posted at 8:08 PM, Dec 13, 2021

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Sarasota Housing Authority partnered 150 local underprivileged children with local law enforcement to shop for holiday gifts at a local Walmart.

Some of the money was raised by two high school sophomores, Charlie Hugill and Aubrey Robbins, who started a foundation called Communities Unified.

"This is so amazing. Even the little kids wake up at four in the morning to come here and have a good holiday. It's amazing," said Robbins.

The Sarasota Housing Authority gives $10,000 and Communities Unified gave $5,000 for the "Shop with a Cop" event. Each child is given $100 and a Sarasota police officer to help them shop.

"The officers have the opportunities to ingratiate themselves with families that they unusually would not encounter in an atmosphere like this," said Rex Troche, Sarasota Interim Police Chief.

Organizers say this is about something much bigger than presents, it's about relationships. Making a positive encounter to break down the trust walls between police and families in public housing.

"I’m hoping that they’re going to walk away knowing that they’ve built a relationship with someone in uniform," said Troche.

The Sarasota Housing Authority serves more than 2,000 families in low-income public housing. The nonprofit’s mission is to help kids in the community rise above their circumstances. In the summer they have a books and badges event, and they also provide tutoring, early education programs, and community gardening.

"We would like nothing better than to see these children grow up and not live in subsidized housing. And we think education, enrichment, and development at a young age are really critical for that," said William Russell, Sarasota Housing Authority CEO.

To learn more about the Sarasota Housing Authority click here.