Area first responders turned into personal shoppers Thursday when they helped dozens of children from across Grayson County take home a few extra presents for the Christmas holiday.
For the fourth year in the row, the Southmayd Police Department organized Shop with a Cop as a way to help families in need and foster positive relationships between the community and emergency service providers. This year’s event secured gifts for 76 students, many of whom got a police and fire escort to Walmart in Sherman.
The officers served as the children’s cart-side assistants.
“We take them out to the store and let hem shop with a firefighter, police officer or volunteer,” Southmayd Police Chief Chad McKee said. “They can spend up to $100 on whatever they want, but we pay for the gifts, and give them some wrapping paper. We send them home to wrap everything and tell them to open it all on Christmas.”
McKee said Shop with a Cop is valuable community program because too often children’s only interactions with first responders come in the event of crime or emergency. When those difficult situations hit close to home, McKee said children may develop a negative association toward emergency personnel and police especially.
“Shop with a Cop lets the kiddos know that we’re here to help, that we’re not here only here for the bad things,” McKee said. “We them to know that they can come to us for any reason.”
The number of children served by the program has nearly doubled from 2018 to 2019 making fundraising an even bigger priority this year. McKee said the officials try to drum up donations year round at festivals and other events, but the site of first responders and children roaming the aisles together always brings out a little last-minute holiday cheer.
“We often have people come up to us in the store and ask what we’re doing,” McKee said. “And when we tell them, a lot of them actually give us money that we’ll save for next year.”
Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.