In the spirit of Christmas, the Athens-Clarke Police Department and Clarke County Sheriff’s Office hosted the fourth annual Shop With a Cop event with several children from the community.
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As recently reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, more than 50 Athens area law enforcement officers paired with 60 children from seven Athens elementary schools last Saturday at The Classic Center. Before the shopping began, the kids were treated to a Chick-Fil-A-catered breakfast.
The pairs headed over to Target for a couple of hours of shopping.
Each child was given $100 to spend on a Christmas gifts, which the kids, officers and volunteers wrapped together after returning from the store.
“To see the kids happy, that speaks magnitudes,” said Tommy Dorsey, an Athens-Clarke police officer. “Being from the community in Athens, Georgia, anything I can do to help, I’m all for it. All hands in.”
Supported through donations from several area businesses and individuals, Shop With a Cop is intended to foster positive relationships between youth and police officers, and show children another side to the police department.
“At first, you may have some kids who are a little bit hesitant,” said Julita Sanders, a neighborhood service officer with the ACCPD’s community outreach division. “Once they get to talk to the officer, and realize they’re human also, everything eases up.”
Former police chief Scott Freeman came up with this idea and asked Sanders to oversee the planning of the event. Since its inception in 2015, Sanders is still involved in planning for Shop with a Cop, and says the organizers, officers and youth involved all enjoy it.
“Every single officer that started four years ago is here today,” Sanders said. “They love to participate every year. Sometimes they even call prior and say, ‘Hey, are you guys still doing Shop With a Cop?’”
The kids were hand-selected by principals and social workers in their elementary schools as students “in need” or who displayed leadership skills in school.
Even though the goal is to give kids a nice Christmas, many of the kids also bought gifts for their family members.