The calendar still says October, but a law enforcement group in Surry County already is organizing an annual Christmas shopping spree for children which includes seeking the public’s help.
Some 20 underprivileged youngsters are typically benefited each year through the Cops and Kids program conducted by the Surry County Chapter of the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which is part of a national organization.
This year, the effort will culminate on Dec. 1, when local FOP members — who include both active and retired law enforcement officers from around the county — take the children on a special retail excursion at Walmart in Mount Airy.
“You get to shop with a cop,” explained Kelly Hiatt, community services officer with the Mount Airy Police Department who is president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Surry.
“We do it for the kids who ordinarily wouldn’t have a Christmas,” Hiatt said of the thrill of receiving presents.
“We normally spend about $150 per kid,” he continued. “We usually spend half on clothes,” and the children can use the other portion of that allotment for items they want — including toys.
Although the program provides joy to young people during the season of giving, the Cops and Kids effort offers other benefits that can pay dividends in the future.
“It does more than just give presents,” Hiatt said of the children who benefit. “It also helps form a relationship between them and law enforcement.” In addition to the shopping experience, lunch is provided for the participants at Walmart.
In 2011, officers with the Pilot Mountain, Mount Airy and Dobson police departments, N.C. Highway Patrol and Surry Community College volunteered for the shopping expedition.
The local lodge of the FOP has about 20 members.
Along with the involvement of the Fraternal Order of Police and Walmart — which sponsors a handful of the children involved — the public has a chance to help.
“We thought some businesses might want to sponsor a kid,” Hiatt said, along with individuals in the community who are interested in supporting a program that can make a big difference in children’s lives.
Sponsorships for the Cops and Kids Christmas event can be arranged through Kelly Hiatt at 429-8480. Donations to assist the program also may be mailed to Surry County Fraternal Order of Police, P.O. Box 811, Dobson, NC, 27017.
The kids who take part are selected with the help of local school systems, according to Hiatt.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.