For almost 20 years, Anchorage Police officers and firefighters gave holiday cheer to local children with the annual "Shop with a Cop and Firefighter," holiday gift-giving event at the Midtown Fred Meyer.

The first responders volunteer their time to spend a few hours helping homeless children on a holiday shopping spree to find gifts for themselves and family members.

"When I've done this before, the kids never want to shop for themselves," APD Communications officer Angelina Fraize said. "I think it's good that Jaselle, the 11-year-old I'm helping today, focuses on what she needs."

The Anchorage Police and Fire Departments reach out to Catholic Social Services and Clare House throughout the year in different ways to be a part of the lives in which they serve.

"This is just one great piece of that," said Catholic Social Services Executive Director Lisa Aquino. "Some of the best stories you see and hear when walking around are these kids who can certainly get themselves a gift [but] are more concerned about other people. They want to get something for a grandmother or a baby sister. People are just so genuine and so generous. The kids are like that and the volunteers here. It's a really special day."

Catholic Social Services has eight different programs. One of those programs is Clare House, a shelter for women and children who are experiencing homelessness. The kids staying at Clare House, about two-thirds of the population at a time, feel a sense of hope for the future through the event.

"This is an event where firefighters and police officers take the kids shopping for gifts for their parents or themselves," Aquino said. "To be a presence in the lives of the people they serve means a lot to everyone involved. This is one great event."

Each child is given $125 to spend. $100 per child comes from the nonprofit charity Anchorage Cops for Community. Fred Meyer Stores chipped in with $25 gift cards and special discounts. Rides to the event were provided by Magic Bus Transportation. The kids also had all of their gifts wrapped by volunteers onsite and then enjoyed snacks and refreshments when their shopping was complete.

"So, we have 48 kids today that we are working with today, and I want to guess around 50 to 60 police officers and firefighters," Fraize said. "We're going to max out every penny-- or try to."

Officer Fraize and Jaselle came close, with a final tally of $124.60.

The event is sponsored by Anchorage Cops for Community and the Anchorage Firefighters' Union.

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