Santa Cop ’01 brings smiles to little faces

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2001

NATCHEZ – Local law enforcement personnel and other volunteers took children shopping for clothes, toys and other Christmas gifts Saturday as part of the Fraternal Order of Police’s ninth annual Santa Cop program.

&uot;You get a chance to help people who aren’t as fortunate as others,&uot; said Detective Tonja Butler of the Natchez Police Department. &uot;It also affords you the opportunity to see the reality of how fortunate you are.&uot;

Each year, schools, welfare agencies, the Salvation Army and other such groups pick needy children to participate in the program.

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Donations and fun- raisers help fund the effort, and funds not used Saturday will go to buy gifts for more children, said Sharlot Chapman. Chapman helps organize the event each year with Tom McGehee of the Natchez Police Department.

Natchez and Vidalia police, Adams County sheriff’s deputies, ambulance workers, Department of Human Service workers, teachers and others served as volunteers for this year’s program.

The first volunteers ate breakfast with some of the children Saturday morning at the Isle of Capri Hotel, then took them shopping at Kmart.

The second round of volunteers ate lunch with the children at Natchez Regional Medical Center before heading to Kmart.

That second group included LeRaymond Clay, a young man who said he was looking forward to buying toys &uot;after we finish looking for clothes.&uot;

His cart was already half-filled with clothes picked out by him and volunteers Korrie Matthews and Alison Zuccaro.

&uot;We’ve enjoyed it so far,&uot; Zuccaro, the girlfriend of Natchez patrol Officer Jay Steele, said of her first year as a Santa Cop volunteer.

Tyler Blaylock of Emergystat said that company’s employees got involved in the program because &uot;we’re in contact with cops a lot, so they let us know it’s coming up.&uot;

Participating in Santa Cop is rewarding, said Blaylock, &uot;because the kids are well-mannered and respectful, and they appreciate what you do for them. And it’s for a good cause.&uot;

&uot;It’s what Christmas is all about,&uot; said Julia Hennington of Emergystat, another volunteer.

Chapman said the Fraternal Order of Police appreciates the various businesses’ support each year. &uot;We couldn’t do it without them,&uot; she said.