Law enforcement has long been known for programs that help families in need – especially around the holidays. Four years ago, the Timnath Police Department decided they wanted to do the same by bringing the national “Shop With a Cop” program to the community. The department works closely with entities in the community to help identify families in the area that may need help providing food, necessities, and gifts for the family during the holiday season. Kids from the selected families then get to “Shop With a Cop” to pick out gifts for their immediate family members, and for themselves. For some kids, these may be the only gifts they receive over the holidays.
The Big Day
Though some were still a little sleepy-eyed at 7:00 a.m., the excitement in the air at the Timnath Wendy’s was unmistakable. The families and the officers were introduced, ordered their breakfast – compliments of Wendy’s – and began to get to know each other as they enjoyed their meal. When all were finished, the group of 20+ made their way across the parking lot to begin the next part of the fun-filled morning.
When they arrived at Walmart they were greeted by Sarah Waggoner who coordinated the store’s participation as well as that of other local businesses who made generous contributions. “Today’s my favorite day of the year,” Waggoner said. “You can see the kids are so excited, and they haven’t even shopped or opened their own presents yet.” After some one-on-one time with Santa, each child was paired with an officer and their attentions turned to the task at hand . . . shopping!
Special checkout lanes were waiting as the pairs showed up to pay with their gift cards. Waiting at the end of each lane were volunteers from the Young Marines and other local organizations who quickly helped wrap the gifts so brothers and sisters couldn’t sneak a peek before Christmas. After a first trip to choose gifts for their siblings, the kids set off with their cop and a fresh gift card to buy something special for their parents. “There are two parts to it,” said Sergeant Robert Wynkoop of the Timnath PD. “In addition to the gifts the kids get to pick out for their families, we also use the funds raised to provide necessities like food, toiletries, laundry supplies and other household items to the families as part of the program.”
Once all of the shopping was complete, Ms. Waggoner had more surprises waiting . . . homemade cookies, hot chocolate and a stack of beautifully wrapped presents for each of the children. “Different business in Timnath have donated money, and they let me go shopping for the kids. It’s so much fun to do,” Waggoner said. “My hope is that, as these kids get older, they remember this as a special day, know that people still care about people and that that’s what Christmas is all about.”
A Community Effort
The Shop With a Cop program is not just about helping someone in need and bringing joy to a handful of families with gifts they wouldn’t normally afford at Christmas. It’s also an effort to foster a positive relationship between local police officers, area youth and families that they have contact with throughout the year. Interim Chief of Police Terry Jones sees it as a community effort. “Christmas can be a difficult time for families, and for us to be able to provide this experience, because of the generosity of people’s donations, sponsors and especially Walmart, is incredible. Events like this really allow us, and area businesses, to give back to the community.”
Enjoy photos from the event below.