The arrival of Santa Claus can remain a mystery up to the time he comes down the chimney, but one gift-giver local kids can always depend on is the Fraternal Order of Police.
For about 30 years, members of the Surry chapter of the group have taken underprivileged youngsters on a shopping spree, thanks to donations from businesses and individuals in the community — and they’ll be doing so again during the upcoming holiday season.
“This year it’s going to be on Dec. 17,” said Kelly Hiatt, a retired officer with the Mount Airy Police Department and longtime member of the Surry Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) who spearheads the Cops and Kids charity event.
“We do it for kids who probably wouldn’t have a Christmas, to try to give them a Christmas,” Hiatt said of the gift aspect surrounding the holiday.
This year, FOP members are hoping to include 20 youths on the shopping trip to be held at Walmart in Mount Airy, which will depend on the generosity of the public to be a success.
The participants, usually ranging in age from 5 to 15, are screened by local school personnel. “They’re the ones who know who really needs it,” Hiatt said of the youths selected for the shopping excursion.
“We spend $150 on each kid,” he added, “half of it going toward necessities (such as clothes) and the other half going for whatever they might want.” This might include toys, games, dolls or sports equipment.
The charity event is funded strictly through monetary donations from the community. Individuals or businesses can sponsor a child, “or we’ll take whatever they can give,” Hiatt said of contributions, all of which go toward the mission of helping children.
Walmart usually sponsors about four youths.
The shopping trip is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 17, which will include local law enforcement personnel as well as their spouses and children in some cases.
Officers are paired with the youths and guide them through the shopping process, with a special checkout line set up at the store to streamline the purchases.
The youths and adults also eat lunch together afterward, which is donated by Subway, with Walmart providing chips, drinks and candy.
Along with the gifts and fellowship, another benefit occurs from law enforcement officers shopping with the youths.
“That provides a positive relationship between the officers and kids,” Hiatt said.
He said Cops and Kids has been a success all these years because of caring officers wanting to experience the joy of giving and the community support that makes it all possible.
Even those who aren’t members of the Fraternal Order of Police sometimes help. The agencies that have been represented include Mount Airy police, the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, the Dobson and Pilot Mountain police departments, the campus police of Surry Community College, the N.C. Highway Patrol and probation personnel.
Contributions for the Cops and Kids Christmas shopping event can be mailed to Surry County Fraternal Order of Police, P.O. Box 811, Dobson, NC, 27017.
Hiatt also can be contacted at 429-8480 to arrange sponsorships for the Cops and Kids Christmas shopping campaign or for more information. (Since the youths involved are screened by the schools, that number should not be used to request assistance.)
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.