This year’s Shop with Cops program, always executed to perfection on December 15 since 2004, had an eye witness in Amelia Island Newcomer Helmut Albrecht, who had his camera focused on happy childrens’ faces. Here is his eyewitness report of a memorable initiative.
Published on Dec 22nd, 2011|
Thursday, December 15th, Walmart Amelia Island, parking lot. 6 police cars lined up in front of the building, flashing blue lights. What is going on? A robbery? Kidnapping? I am getting closer and see children lined up with their parents or guardians, a face-painting artist, hot chocolate and police officers that escort the kids into the store. The children come back after about 45 minutes with a filled shopping cart and a big smile on their face. The officers come out with them, happy as well and sometimes with a little tear in their eyes.
Being new to the island, I still don’t understand what is going on here; so I ask the highest ranked officer, Chief Hurley, and he tells me:
“The Fernandina Beach Police Department began it’s very successful Shop with Cops program in 2004 and now serves more than 150 local school children each year, providing the opportunity to shop with a police officer at the Amelia Island Walmart store, while insuring that many of our underprivileged kids experience the joy of Christmas. Donations are collected all year long and every penny donated translates directly into Christmas toys and much needed clothing. Our program participants are selected by local school guidance counselors, who make sure that only the truly needy are given the opportunity to participate in this unique program, which was inspired by local resident Don Monahan.”
Now it all starts making sense and I follow some of the shopping groups. First to the shopping area for the necessities: a pair of new jeans or shoes, how about t-shirts? This is the important shopping part for the parents and guardians.
On the way over to the toy area comes the question: “How much is still left from the 100 Dollar?”. Mom and the officer tally the inventory of the shopping cart. Some of the shopping teams are matched together every year and have developed a strong bond…unfortunately because that implies that the family is still financially in distress yet another year later, but such is life, I guess.
Over in the “fun area”: how about a new bike, a Sesame street monster, electronic games – tough decisions.
On the way to the cashier the last check is made if the team is “inside the budget”.
The register is ringing and the kids are smiling. Many of the officers do not hold their tears back when they shake hands with “their” child and wish them a Merry Christmas.
As I leave the Walmart store I notice police cars still lined up, blue lights flashing ominously into the night; yet illuminating smiling faces of children signing in for their shopping experience and police officers ready for their next assignment.
Shop with Cops – the gift of giving newly defined! Happy Holidays!
Here are the faces of Christmas, photographed by Helmut Albrecht.
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