Christmas arrived early for some Hastings families in need when they got to Shop With a Cop for holiday gifts.

On Dec. 18, 16 children from six families in the community were granted $100 dollars to spend on gifts of their choice at SC Toys. COUNTRY Financial Representative and insurance agency owner Mandy Bremer partnered with the Hastings Police Department and donated $1,500 through the Operation Helping Heroes program to make it all happen.

The participating families were chosen from a pool of nominations put forth by over 50 community members on COUNTRY Financial’s Facebook page. The focus, Bremer said, was to hone in on local families who may not otherwise be able to put gifts underneath their Christmas trees this year.

“We really want to help the people who need a little extra boost this season. With inflation being what it is and people who have children who are struggling, we’re really just looking to give people a little extra joy and a little extra help,” Bremer said. 

Walking around the store to assist the children in selecting their gifts was Hastings Community Engagement Officer Whitney Rinowski. Bremer praised Rinowski for all of her involvement and dedication toward helping uplift the community .

“She’s been fantastic. She's been involved in a lot of the activities that we’ve done and she has done a really good job being a liaison with the community,” Bremer said.

COUNTRY Financial launched the Operation Helping Heroes program back in 2015 as a way to support non-profit events and programs that benefit active-duty service members, veterans and their families. Since 2020, the program has raised over $4 million and has been expanded to include first responders and teachers.

Looking forward, Bremer said that the Operation Helping Heroes program will continue to look for different ways to partner with organizations in the community. She said that the program will be bringing back their summer programming and is hoping to facilitate an event for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. 

“The more we give, the more we get in terms of budget, so it's something we will continue to do in fun ways,” Bremer said.

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