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Shop with a Cop helps 20 kids, some affected by Park Hill Apartments fire
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Sgt. Erin Escalante helps Christopher Gomez, 7, try on a jacket Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Gainesville Walmart. Gainesville Police’s 2020 Shop with a Cop program helped roughly 20 kids pick up some presents in a partnership with Walmart and Pilgrim’s.

As they made their way to the register Thursday, Dec. 17, Officer Justin Seabolt and 7-year-old Christopher Gomez lifted up the items in their shopping cart to reveal a metallic blue scooter.

"That's the first thing you went for was your razor scooter, wasn't it?" Seabolt asked.

Seabolt and Sgt. Erin Escalante helped Christopher as part of Gainesville Police’s Shop with a Cop program, where roughly 20 kids got to pick up some presents in a partnership with Walmart and Pilgrim’s.

Lt. Kevin Holbrook said the program received more than $5,000 to help the children.

"We work with counselors to identify those children that may be in need,” Holbrook said. “It's one that this year, probably more so than any, it's been a difficult year for many families. We know that many families have had hardships with the pandemic."

Holbrook said some of the children assisted this year were affected by the fires at the Park Hill Apartments. Officials said 31 people were displaced by the fires after an electrical issue with a water heater on Nov. 30.

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Gainesville Fire spokesman Keith Smith said the second fire came from embers reigniting and spreading through the attic.

It was Seabolt’s third time doing the Shop with a Cop event, a fun opportunity with kids in the community and always interesting to see what they’ll want to put in their carts.

"It's just coming out here and showing the kids the fun side of police work,” he said. “We're out here to be the friends and help them out."

Ana Pascual, Christopher’s stepmother, said the experience was overwhelming “because sometimes you can't give them all the stuff that they want or need.”

“I thank the police department for doing that and the school counselor as well,” she said.

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Gainesville Police’s 2020 Shop with a Cop program helped roughly 20 kids pick up some presents in a partnership with Walmart and Pilgrim’s.
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