‘Shop with a Cop’ was uplifting for officers, children

Published 1:30 pm Friday, December 21, 2012

Bainbridge Public Safety Officer Rusty Day and BPS office clerk McKenzie Conder help Sloan, age 5, look at some warm slippers she wanted to buy a family member for Christmas.

Several Bainbridge Public Safety officers had the chance to play Santa’s helpers on Thursday morning, when they took some deserving children Christmas shopping for their families.

In its first-ever “Shop with a Cop” program, BPS officers were paired up with 11 children from three families who needed help making Christmas Day special. The officers took the children shopping at the Bainbridge Walmart, to purchase winter clothes and other necessities for their siblings and parents or guardians.

BPS worked with Decatur County Schools and Family Connection to identify the 11 children, whose ages ranged from 4 to 14, to participate in “Shop with a Cop,” said Adrienne Harrison, public information director for the City of Bainbridge. The children otherwise would have benefited from the school system’s “Secret Santa” program, in which teachers and school staff buy presents for less fortunate students.

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“We wanted the officers to be able to meet with the kids, spend the day with them, and show them that officers don’t just show up when bad stuff happens,” Harrison said. “To tell the children, ‘Police are here all the time and they’re your friend.’ And the officers want to be able to give back to the community, which has shown a lot of support for Public Safety.”

To fund “Shop with a Cop,” BPS officers and City of Bainbridge employees teamed up to raise more than $3,300 by raffling off a Yeti cooler and accepting private donations.

“Shop with a Cop” participants met at Walmart at 9 a.m. Thursday and were welcomed by Public Safety Director Eric Miller. Public Safety office support staff also pitched in to help the children shop.

“We were able to raise enough money that we were able to give the parents money to grocery shop with while the kids went shopping,” said Harrison, who added that Walmart gave each family a $100 gift card as well. “The children for the most part were buying clothes and other items their family needed — if they had any money left over, we let them buy a small present for themselves or a toy for their sibling.”

The Public Safety officers seemed to get as much out of the experience as the kids did, as they took interest in getting to know them personally during the shopping.

“I was deeply satisfied to be able to help less fortunate kids to have a good Christmas,” said Captain James Dollar, a veteran Public Safety officer. “Just to see the look on their faces and see them get things they would not have otherwise had was really special.”

After shopping was completed, the children, their families and the Public Safety officers enjoyed a lunch that had been provided free of charge by the Seminole Wind restaurant.

Around noon, the children took their families’ gifts into Public Safety headquarters to gift-wrap them with the help of their new friends. The children were also surprised by a visit from Santa Claus, who gave each of them a toy to reward them for being good this year.

“Some of them got Legos, some of them got baby dolls, they were fun gifts; some of the children opened their gifts then and some wanted to save them for Christmas Day,” Harrison said. “The kids were very excited to see Santa, they loved him! Santa helped wrap presents, even though his elves normally do that at the North Pole.”

The Bainbridge Dairy Queen also donated ice cream cakes for each family.