The Surry County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 24 once again provided a little Christmas cheer to needy children in the area Saturday with the annual Cops And Kids shopping event held at Walmart in Mount Airy.
According to Surry County Fraternal Order of Police President Kelly Hiatt the local organization is composed of law enforcement agencies in Yadkin and Surry County as well as retired officers. He said the group had been staging this event locally for more than 20 years.
“We just wanted to do something for kids who otherwise might not have a good Christmas,” said Hiatt. “This project is funded totally through donations from local businesses and individuals.” Hiatt explained the group relies on help from the county school systems to identify needy children. The parents of candidates are then contacted for permission for the child to participate.
Hiatt said 21 children were involved in the shopping event held at Walmart. He said $150 is spent on each child with roughly $75 of the amount going toward clothing needs with the remainder going for toys.
“This project serves two purposes,” said Hiatt. “One is to help children in need and the second is to build positive relationships between the officers and participants and the children.” He said parents leave children with an officer or law enforcement professional who spends the day with them shopping, the majority of shopping buddies for the children are sworn officers.
“That’s just as important as any gift,” said Hiatt as he recalled seeing the smiles on the faces of children as they go through the store’s aisles. He said the group met at the store at 9 a.m. and later ate lunch in the store with Subway providing sandwiches and Walmart providing chips, drinks and desserts.
“The parents usually start arriving back at the store at noon to pick up the children and the things they bought,” said Hiatt. “Without our donors we couldn’t do this. Walmart sponsors two children themselves.” Hiatt recalled seeing smiles on the usually somber officers as they shepherd the children throughout the store. Children served by the effort range in age from 5-12 years.
Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson recalled how a group of participants wanted first and foremost to buy presents for each other and for their mother. They were hesitant to stop shopping because they didn’t want their siblings to see the gifts and spoil their Christmas surprise.
“They were so anxious to start shopping,”said Atkinson. “I told them don’t worry we’ll get some other other officers and work it all out.”
“It warms an officer’s heart to see a smile on a child’s face,” said Hiatt. “Some of our officers bring their own children along to help and see how lucky they are to have what they have. They know how blessed their life is.”
Hiatt’s son, Ross, who participated in many Cops and Kids events, is an employee of Walmart who participated again this year helping children shop. He said he enjoys it so much he doesn’t mind leaving the shopping trip to go straight to work.
Fraternal order of police vice president Bob Hodge said several participants of this year’s shopping finished up and then volunteered to help him shop for the Shoals Ruritan Angel Tree.
“They simply wanted to return the kindness and pay it ahead,” said Hodge.
Cops and Kids is just one of the ongoing community service missions by the lodge. On a national and state level, the fraternal order of police also work to make legislators aware of important issues to the law enforcement community as well as providing death benefits to officer’s families and legal support.
“We have a lot of community partnerships and it works really well for us,” added Hiatt. “I cannot stress how important it is the we have received donations from individuals and businesses for this project. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.