RANTOUL — Youngsters will learn a little bit about budgeting as well as how to shop for other people through the new Shop with a Cop program in Rantoul.

The program, instituted under Police Chief Erman Blevins, who had worked with it previously, will benefit 31 children in grades K-5 who are nominated by school personnel based on need.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, the children, in two shifts, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., will head to Rantoul Wal-Mart, where, with the help of  uniformed officers and volunteers, they will buy gifts for members of their immediate family.

"We’ll have information about the family and will help the kids pick out stuff for the family within a budget they’re given," said Melissa Welch, who works in the records department at the Rantoul Police Department.

Depending on the size of the family, they will have a budget of about $100 per child.

Afterward, the children will participate in a pizza party, at which they will receive a present from their own wish list.

"The interaction with the officers is what we’re looking forward to having as well as teaching them gift giving," Welch said.

In its first year in Rantoul, the program will likely expand to more children in a wider range of ages in the future, she said.

Volunteers are needed to help with the program. Monetary donations are also needed.

"I’m sure there will be quite the need for wrapping presents as well as passing out presents (and) monetary donations," Welch said.

People may contact Welch at the police department to volunteer at 893-5600.

While the department got a bit of a late start organizing the program this year, planning and fundraising will begin earlier in future years.

Mitten tree

Rantoul officer Kurtis Buckley, who is also school resource officer at Rantoul Township High School, said the department will continue to sponsor its mitten tree project.

This year the program will be held in conjunction with the Future Business Leaders of America at RTHS.

People are asked to donate mittens, gloves, hats, scarves and other articles of warm clothing for underprivileged children.

"There’s a lot of kids I see walking to school from across town without a coat or a hat," Buckley said.

Donated items may be dropped off at the police station or at the office at RTHS or with Rantoul City Schools school resource officer Thane Jackson .

dhinton@rantoulpress.com