Local kids 'Shop with a Cop'
With the help of Waynesville Police Officer Paige Shell, first-grader Gracie Webb reached high for a sequined skirt and red top.
“I like sparkles,” she told Shell, with an excited flash in her eyes.
After selecting her first outfit, she was immediately drawn to a pair of glitter splashed jeans.
Meanwhile, Carrie Sutton, a fifth grader at Jonathan Valley Elementary, carefully selected a set of multi-colored socks with Sheriff’s Deputy Morgan Deaver.
“Let’s find you a shirt to match your socks,” he said, to which she replied with a giggle, “I don’t wear matching socks.”
They were just a few of 28 pairs pushing carts through Walmart for the Shop with a Cop program Monday morning.
Sponsored by the Haywood County chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Shop with a Cop gives police officers a chance to give back to the community in a different way — by serving the children.
Law enforcement officers from every agency in the county gathered at Walmart Monday to one-on-one shop with kids referred to the program by school leaders and guidance counselors.
Now in its eighth year, the program is a way for all agencies to come together for a good cause, said Det. Jeff Haynes with the Waynesville Police Department, who is also president of the local FOP.
"It's community based, and we as a community are bound by taking care of the children and doing the right thing to try and improve their quality of life," Haynes said.
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.
When each group of students arrived, they are given breakfast, a stocking full of goodies and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.
“We have been doing this for the past several years, and we are proud to work with our local law enforcement,” he said.
After that, they were paired with their own police officer as a shopping buddy to peruse the aisles.
Each child was able to spend $125 on items such as clothing, hats, gloves and accessories.
Haynes said it’s important to stress the program is more about helping provide the necessities to children during the holiday season and less about toys.
But that doesn’t mean the kids will be without toys.
This year, the program partnered with Toys for Tots so that each child could receive two toy items. But instead of them choosing their toy at the store, the toys were picked out in advance and will be wrapped for them to open on Christmas Day.
Waynesville DARE Officer Tyler Howell said the event is one of the highlights of his job during this time of year.
Walking around the store with his newfound buddy, Gage Jenkins, a first-grader at Hazelwood Elementary School, Howell made it his mission to find the little boy a camouflage jacket.
"Christmas is just another thing on a list of many that we take for granted, so to help children who don't take it for granted — it's a very humbling experience," Howell said.