Children in Fortuna go Christmas shopping with first responders

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FORTUNA- More than 100 second, third and fourth graders from Fortuna and Loleta went holiday shopping for their families, while spending time with the ones who keep us safe. 

Children participating in “Shop With a Hero” at Ace Hardware in Fortuna on Thursday night got to buy presents for their families, thanks to the Fortuna Rotary Club, the Fortuna Sunrise Rotary Club, the McLean foundation and Ace Hardware.

"I think a lot of the kids don't necessarily have the ability to go and shop for their siblings and their parents and kids so often are used to the getting aspect of it during the holidays so this just provides them a different opportunity to be able to give to them," said Jennifer Budgwig, a member of the Fortuna Sunrise Rotary Club and a Board Member of the McLean Foundation.

Schools in the Fortuna Union Elementary School District and the Loleta Union Elementary School District chose which students would participate.

The kids say they’re happy to be buying their families gifts for the holidays.

"I like seeing them smile when they get their gifts and unwrap them," said nine-year-old Ashlin Hudson.

"It made me feel really good because on Christmas, I know that they'll all like what I got them," said seven-year-old Athena Martinez.

"They love me and I love them and they always get me presents every year… and I'm glad that I have a roof over my head and food," said eight-year-old Josiah Alvarez.

Members of the Fortuna Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, CAL FIRE, the Fortuna Fire Department and the Loleta Fire Department shopped with the kids.

"First off, it provides an opportunity to act as a role model or mentor for the young children, and two, it helps soften the edge and it makes us more approachable for the young kids so we may not be as intimidating," said Battalion Chief Tim Devos with CAL FIRE.

"Any time a child can have a positive role model, can not be afraid of someone in a uniform and realize that we're just a person and we're here to help and that way they feel comfortable if they see something or something is to happen, then they're able to feel comfortable reporting that," said Lt. Matthew Eberhardt with the Fortuna Police Department.

"I don't get to do that very often and it's not like every day I see a police officer or a firefighter," Alvarez said.