Haywood kids treated to a shopping spree

By DeeAnna Haney | Dec 18, 2013
State Trooper Joey Henderson helps Isme Carmona-Gallegos, a fourth-grader at Meadowbrook Elementary School, pick out the perfect toy.

Sgt. Heath Plemmons could barely keep up with kindergartner Abigail Hawkins as they navigated the little girls' clothing section.

"Lets find you a pair of jeans first," he said. But it was too late — Hawkins had already spotted a pair of sparkly belts with stars on them.

"I like the pink and purple. Those are my favorite colors," she told the officer with a grin.

Meanwhile, State Trooper Joey Henderson pushed a shopping cart through the toy aisle with fourth-grader Isme Carmona-Gallegos riding in front of him. The boy came to a halt in front of a wall of action figures.

"Skylanders are my favorite," he said, gathering several in his arms attempting to make his selection.

They were just a few of the nearly 40 elementary students pushing shopping carts through Walmart with uniformed police officers for the Cops and Kids program Monday morning.

Members of the Clyde Lion's Club and law enforcement officers from every agency in the county gathered at the store to one-on-one shop with kids referred to the program by school leaders and guidance counselors. Sponsored by the Haywood County chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Cops and Kids gives police officers a chance to give back to the community in a different way — by serving the children.

The program is a way for all agencies to come together for a good cause, said Haywood County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jeff Haynes, who is also president of the local FOP. The Clyde Lion's Club had seven members and their wives ready to shop with the students as well.

Each year, Walmart staff also pitches in to make the event special for the children. Store Manager Jerry Presley said it’s a program they hold dear to their hearts.

"We are proud to be a part of this community and want to do all we can to give back to the children and we are proud to work with our local law enforcement and the Lion's Club," Presley said.

When each group of students arrived, they were given breakfast, a stocking full of goodies and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap, who was a Lion's Club member. Then they were paired with a cop or Lion's Club member to spend $125 on items such as clothing, hats, gloves and one toy.

Waynesville Police Officer Tyler Howell may have been having just as much fun as his shopping buddy, third-grader Maria Hernandez, as they navigated the little girls' clothing section.

"How about a Duck Dynasty T-shirt?" he said, pulling a shirt from the racks for Hernandez as she giggled and shook her head.

"I just love doing this," he said. "I do it every year. One year I was working graveyard shift and I stayed up just so I could do this."

Howell is also a DARE officer, and said he enjoys spending time with kids, not only because he's just a big kid himself, but also to teach them that police officers are their friends.