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When 9-year-old Yosselin Rincon Flores arrived at Super Target early Saturday, she was determined to find a Rubik's Cube.

Luckily, Yosselin had some help browsing the shelves with her mother, Blanca Rincon Flores, and a Lincoln Police officer.

The officer accompanied Yosselin for the Lincoln Police Department's annual Shop with a Cop event.

Sixty kids from Elliott, McPhee and Everett elementary schools were chosen by their teachers on a need basis to participate in the event.

When the children arrived at Super Target at 48th Street and Yankee Hill Road on Saturday, they were paired with 60 officer volunteers.

Each child received a $150 Target gift card to be spent on whatever they wanted.

Community volunteers helped with gift wrapping in a station hidden from family members. 

Blanca Rincon Flores knew her daughter was thinking of her family, including her baby brother, while shopping.

"She asked for all of our sizes before she started," Rincon Flores said.

Yosselin's family has been struggling financially since her father lost his job after a work accident and her mother, who graduated in June from Southeast Community College, got pregnant and had to stay home with the baby.

"It's been a tough year," Rincon Flores said.

Capt. Mike Woolman has organized Shop with a Cop the last four years. The purpose of the event, he says, is to help families such as Yosselin's.

"It's a great way for the police department to give back and get to know members of the community," he said. "It's really rewarding to see kids get excited about interacting with a police officer as a person, instead of as a police officer. They can see them in a different light."

Bridging that divide was part of the reason Officer Steven Berry volunteered this year.

"I wanted to do something for the community that helps build positive relationships with kids," he said after he finished helping his new friend, Juan, pick out gifts for his sisters. "Obviously, we get a lot out of it, but the kids get so much more."

Shop with a Cop is funded by partnerships with companies such as Target, Chick-fil-A and Compass Marketing in Lincoln. Donations also come from Santa Cop, a police union program that raises funds throughout the year for holiday events.

Woolman said he appreciates the community effort and he's proud of the growth the program has made since he created it in 2013, when there were just 30 kids and $75 gift cards.

"It's a good event," Rincon Flores said while she waited for Yosselin to finish wrapping her gifts. "Especially in our situation. And I know there are other families in the same boat."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or hmuslic@journalstar.com.

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