Santa Cop volunteers give children gifts and caring

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

NATCHEZ &8212; Children in need ended up shopping buggies full of brand-new clothing &8212; of a few shiny new toys &8212; Saturday thanks to Saturday&8217;s Santa Cop outing.

Through that program, volunteers from law enforcement, local schools and the Department of Human Services shop for Christmas gifts for some of the area&8217;s most needy children &8212; all with the children in tow.

This year, about 54 children and 20 adult volunteers combed through Wal-Mart&8217;s shelves after a breakfast trip to McDonald&8217;s.

Email newsletter signup

&8220;Our motto is &8216;To Serve and Protect,&8217; and this is a way we serve the community,&8221; said Lt. Gail Frisby, a coordinator of the 13th annual Santa Cop event.

&8220;It&8217;s something we love doing. And it&8217;s especially important this year, because some of the children we&8217;re shopping for are (hurricane) evacuees.&8221;

Children were recommended for the program by sources including the schools, DHS and the Salvation Army.

While children taking part in Saturday&8217;s shopping trip were too busy gathering up gifts to talk for long, some said they wanted dolls, toy cars and more, with some dreaming big.

&8220;X-Box!&8221; one child said excitedly before being steered back to the clothes aisles.

But the event was also about connecting with the community, participants said.

&8220;A lot of times children see the police in a negative way&8221; after someone they know gets arrested or someone tells them to be afraid of police, said Natchez Police Officer Bryan Seyfarth. &8220;This could help change that.&8221;

That&8217;s important so that fear doesn&8217;t keep children from asking police for help, he noted.

Fifth-grade teacher Lauren Mullins said she knows firsthand that many local children are in need &8212; and not just for material things.

&8220;These kids need one-on-one attention,&8221; Mullins said. &8220;This shows them we care about them.&8221;