Waukee Police Department makes modifications to Thanksgiving Basket, Shop with a Cop programs

Becky Carlyle
Members of the Waukee Police Department help fill Thanksgiving Baskets for area families in 2017.

The Waukee Police Department will be offering their Thanksgiving Basket and Shop with a Cop programs this year; however, some modifications have been put in place due to COVID-19.

Sgt. Mackenzie Sposeto has been with the Waukee Police Department for 13.5 years as the Public Information Officer and Sergeant of Community Outreach. 

“I got into law enforcement at the age of 23, right out of college,” Sposeto said. “I wanted to make a difference and make life safer for my loved ones.” 

Sposeto oversees all of the community outreach programs at the Waukee Police Department.

“My passion is working with kids at risk and I strive to help these kids make good, healthy choices and educate that police aren't bad people,” Sposeto said. “I have 25 awesome/amazing programs that I love and keep trying to make better.”

The Thanksgiving Basket program started five years ago. They partner with the Waukee Fareway to get the needed food items for the baskets. The Waukee Police Department has been offering the Shop with a Cop program for several years, which is facilitated by several police departments all over the United States. 

“We have done some modifications based on demands,” Sposeto said. “The larger Waukee becomes, the more families we have that need assistance.”

The Waukee Police Department works with the Waukee Schools to help identify families in need. For the Thanksgiving Basket program, Sposeto reaches out to 25 different families and shares information about the programs. Once the families are set, she reaches out to Fareway to get food for the 25 baskets. The Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, officers and their families come together to assemble and deliver the baskets.

“Most of us that participate in the programs also have our families assist,” Sposeto said. “It is important to me that my children understand that we treat everyone the same and respect one another regardless of how much money a person has or doesn't have.”

The Shop with a Cop program looks a little different this year due to COVID-19. The Waukee Police Department normally takes 25 kids shopping for gifts for themselves and their families. Then they serve breakfast and lunch and wrap all the gifts with the kids prior to their families picking them up.  

This year, the officers will gather wish lists from their selected families. Instead of taking the kids shopping in-person, the officers will shop for the gifts and wrap them before delivering. Pizza and the wrapped gifts will be delivered to each family.

“We try to help as many families as our funds permit, so we generally give to different families per program,” Sposeto said.

The Waukee Police Department asks for monetary support to fill the Thanksgiving Baskets and purchase gifts for the families in need. Checks can be mailed or dropped off at the Waukee Police Department at 1300 SE LA Grant Parkway.

This season, both programs are currently full. For other families in need, Sposeto recommends reaching out to area churches and schools to see if they are facilitating similar programs. She shared that the Waukee Community Closet is an amazing store that helps give to families in need.

“We LOVE helping our community and these programs fill up fast,” she said. “I love working with families and children. Making life a little better and easier, especially around the holidays, is the best gift I could get.”

Waukee Police Officers shop with kids during a past Shop with a Cop program. This year's event will look different because of COVID-19.