“This is pretty cool!” said Wilson High School student Derrick Gil, whose P.A.L. holiday shopping escort was Santa Clara Police Department Chief Mike Sellers, who pushed a Target cart and made conversation.
Gil was one of 50 Santa Clara Unified School District students nominated by their principals to participate in the Santa Clara Police Activities League’s (P.A.L.) annual “Shop with a P.A.L.” holiday outreach December 19. This year, 44 students shopped with uniformed police escorts and a few plain clothes officers at the new Target store, 2004 El Camino Real, in the Santa Clara Town Centre.
“Have you thought about what you want to get?” asked Sellers.
“Can I get a big item?” asked Gil.
“You can get anything you want with the $200.”
“My mom has been wanting a TV from here for awhile.”
In just ten minutes, Chief Sellers and Gil had located a 32-inch TV on sale for $179.99 and purchased it, after tax, for $199.74, leaving a whopping 26 cents on the gift card.
“My mom deserves the best in the world. She’s cool!” said Gil.
“Whenever we can give back to others, it’s wonderful,” said Sellers. “Really, the gift today is for us to be part of this interaction with kids, especially at this time of year.”
Sellers thanked Target for hosting the early-morning shopping trip, Mariani’s Inn for providing breakfast for the children, Royal Coaches for providing transportation from Target to Mariani’s Inn and the many individual and business sponsors and volunteers who contributed their time and resources.
“It’s the holidays, and it’s time to give back by volunteering my services to the community,” said Royal Coach operator Nick Clark, who volunteers every year to drive the bus for this P.A.L. event.
The “Shop with a P.A.L.” program was initiated by SCPD Officer Bill Davis in 2011.
“P.A.L. is all about connecting police and the community,” said Davis, “and this shopping program fills a special need. It’s a way to make sure more people have a happy Christmas. I’m glad that P.A.L. and the officers still have enthusiasm to come out and volunteer their time to do this.”
“I got some clothes, a backpack and gift for my mom. I’ve never won a contest or been chosen for anything like this before,” said Don Callejon student Danny Varela. “It’s nice to think that the principal thinks I deserve this.”
P.A.L. and the police are reaching out for the holidays in other ways, too. On game day December 20, the SCPD participated with other volunteers in a new toy drive hosted by the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium to further the outreach of six Santa Clara nonprofits.
On Christmas Eve, December 24, Santa Clara P.A.L. board members (including its president, Colette Aldridge), SCPD officers, Mariani Inn employees and Santa delivered a holiday meal basket from Mariani’s and wrapped gifts chosen from their personal wish lists to ten Santa Clara families. The families were identified by the school district as ones who would especially benefit from the outreach.
“[Shopping with a P.A.L.] is a great opportunity to work with children–and families–and let the community know we do more than police work,” said Officer Robert Martinez, P.A.L. Director. “We are building stronger bonds now with children, and it helps in the future. Sometimes the police are portrayed in a negative light, but this is a reminder that we’re here to serve the community.”