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Shopping With Sheriffs for Back To School

8/29/02

n the shoe aisle at Target, a 5-year-old completed his outfit for the first day of school. Although the shirt he picked out might be too hot on Sept. 3, the shoes and jeans were a must.

"These shoes without the zippers, I'm going to be wearing these," he said, holding up some of the clothes he picked out in the Shop with the Sheriff Program, where economically disadvantaged children from the area go back-to-school shopping at the Target Store in Burke, with members of the Fairfax County Sheriffs Department.

Nathan is going to be a kindergartner at Daniel's Run Elementary School in the City of Fairfax. He looked at the advantage of the jacket he picked out with the help of Sheriff Cadet Sean Timothy.

"When I don't want to wear it, I don't have to," the child said.

Over in the girls’ section, 5-year-old Lacey had fashion in mind.

"These are capri pants. Maybe I could wear a skirt," she said.

Officer Bonnie Mahoney listened to Lacey as they went from aisle to aisle.

"She's very good at picking out clothes," Mahoney said.

This was the seventh year for the program. This year, 41 children were chosen from the Shelter House for Homeless Families, the Sheriff's Office Mentor Program and others that are recommended from neighborhood outreach programs. Each child is allotted $130 and paired with sheriff personnel to get clothes, shoes and school supplies. Target gives them a 10-percent discount and goody bags, as well.

They were going to a nearby Ruby Tuesday restaurant for lunch following the shopping spree.

Master Deputy Sheriff JJ Snyder noted the community involvement.

"This is something we do to give back to the community. We do have a mentoring program, also. This is a good way to get the children to meet the officers in a good way. They're from all over the county," he said.

Target cashier Karen Siles helped out in the aisles.

"I think it's awesome the sheriffs recognize the need. I remember when I was a kid, and I couldn't get what I wanted. Life is too short. These kids are going to always remember this," she said.

The school supplies were easily purchased with the $130, but adding in the clothing, the money didn't go as far. Siles realized the clothes they picked out were a start.

"I don't think that's enough, but it will cover a lot of what they need. It depends on the likes of the kids. Teen-agers are a little more pickier," she said.

Burke resident Deborah Galarza did manage to get all the supplies needed for her daughter Alex, 13, who will be a ninth-grader at Robinson this year. She was not part of the Sheriff program.

"We got everything including a backpack for under $130," she said.

Skateboards were on one 14-year-old's mind. He skates on a daily basis around his home in Falls Church and had that look in mind for the first day of school.

"I got some skateboarding clothes. Everybody who skateboards, you wouldn't want to go to school looking like a poser," he said.

A fifth-grader at Laurel Ridge Center was with sheriff recruit Jessica Herbert at Target. Their bag was dominated by the color blue.

"Blue is her favorite color," Herbert said.

"I think it's my eyes," the student added.