LAURINBURG — Nearly two dozen children were paired with police officers this week for Laurinburg’s first ever Shop with a Cop.
Pushing shopping carts down the aisles through different departments at Walmart, the kids picked out Christmas presents for their families — and themselves.
“We’re putting forth the effort to assure that kids wake up with toys under their tree for Christmas,” said Police Chief Darwin Williams. “Look at our youth, they’re happy, they’re smiling, they’re thankful, the families are thankful and grateful and we’re thankful to be able to do this.”
The children, ages two to 14, received a $20 gift-card from Walmart and $100 from the police department to spend on gifts.
“I’m excited that it’s almost Christmas and that we get toys,” said Julian Roman, third grader at I. Ellis Johnson. “I want Thomas trains, a bicycle, a lot of Hot Wheels cars and an Xbox One.”
All of the children and families were chosen through churches, radio stations and phone calls to the police station.
“The chief of police told us about it and then he invited my granddaughter to come out and to participate in it,” said Terence Williams. “I just think it’s an awesome thing, being able to help with what the officers see as a need in our community.”
Terence Williams planned to buy two toys, clothes and perhaps a bicycle for his four-year-old granddaughter.
“We do need to get behind this program because it’s really awesome,” he said. “I just think with the season of giving this is an awesome way that the officers can give back to the community.”
The program was sponsored through a softball tournament held by the police department. Donations were also accepted and Walmart provided the gift-cards.
“Shop with a Cop is a really good thing — It brings the police officers closer to the kids and the community and that’s what it’s all about this time of year, giving back,” said council member Dee Hammond who donated to the cause. “I’m so proud of our police department and these kids are going to have a good Christmas because of what they’ve done.”
Walmart store managers feel strongly about giving back to the community.
“We do it for the community and for the kids and the community involvement,” said Store Manager Chris Marks. “It’s for the kids and the police station.”
Co-manager Sarah Atkinson said she has helped with similar efforts in other counties.
“I’ve been part of the program before and it is just a great program,” Atkinson said. “I think it is a very good community service, that’s the reason that we got so involved in it.”
Officials plan to continue the event every year.
“We’re going to touch a different group each year and we’ll reach the kids that we didn’t get this year,” Darwin Williams said. “Life is about giving back, it isn’t always about receiving and right now we’re giving back and doing God’s work.”
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.