David Broyles Staff Reporter
December 8, 2013
Mount Airy Police Lt. Kelly Hiatt talks about the annual “Kids and Cops” shopping program at Walmart as an established holiday tradition locally.
Hiatt praised the efforts of local businesses and individuals who make the project possible. He said typically $150 is spent on each child participating with half of the amount going to clothing and essentials and the remaining money going for toys. In addition to the Mount Airy Police Department and Explorers group, other agencies for Saturday’s event included officers from Pilot Mountain and Surry Community College, Surry County Sheriff’s deputies and Bob Hodge, a retired federal agent.
The event is organized by the Fraternal Order of Police organization. Hodge serves as the state trustee and vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police. Hiatt is the president of the Surry County Chapter of the FOP, and Hiatt’s brother, Steve, is the secretary-treasurer of the local order.
Hiatt said needy local children are identified by volunteers like Tara Barr of the Surry County School System and Cassie Walker of the Mount Airy City Schools. Hiatt also said families and children of officers regularly participate in the shopping tour.
“The (officers’) families get a lot out of this,” said Hiatt. “I know my children appreciate a lot more of what they have. It’s a good thing for them to help.”
He said that giving helping the helpers has been a constant from the beginning of the program and it is a natural offshoot of “community” approach to law enforcement.
He said the Mount Airy Police Department has been using the approach of becoming active members of the community for many years previous to it being once again championed by departments nationally.
“Police don’t know the problems that are out there for communities so we have to be involved. People will tell us what is going on,” Hiatt said. “If people know us, they will be more likely to help us and I think this is a big part of that. It has to be the police and the community together. Citizens have to be our partner. We work together as a team. Not only do the kids get to know us, but their families do, too. We’re not just doing this to help us though. We are doing this because kids need it.”
He said he has seen positive results from the rapport built between officers and participants through the years and said officers seem to enjoy stepping out of their traditional role of arrest and enforcement, if only for just a bit. He said the kids, their families and the officers don’t forget the experience.
“Over the years I’ve seen what you’d call hard core officers have a tear in their eye after shopping with the kids,” said Hiatt. “Walmart has also helped us so much and the store here is paying for four kids to participate. They’ve dedicated two registers up front for us as well as drinks and cookies and Subway provides the kids and volunteers lunch. Walmart personnel take the food back and have it all set up for us. It’s a wonderful thing. We just couldn’t do this without the help of individuals and businesses who step up to help.”
Hiatt’s daughter, Kelsey, and his son, Ross, who is in the MAPD Explorer’s group, were among the volunteers helping the 22 children on Saturday. Both remember helping with the effort since they were little children. Ross Hiatt said he has participate in the shopping tour for 10 years, although not consecutively because of him being a member of the wrestling team.
“I just started going with it,” said Ross Hiatt, who also works at Walmart and finished the tour up last year just in time to begin his shift. “It’s good for them (the children) to get some stuff for Christmas.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.