NPD collecting funds for Santa Cop

Published 1:38 am Monday, November 30, 2009

NATCHEZ — With the Christmas season fast approaching, Natchez Police Department officers will be taking on the responsibility of another uniform — Santa’s.

On Dec. 19, the Fraternal Order of Police’s Santa Cop campaign will kick off with officers and volunteers picking up children from around the county to take them out for a day Christmas cheer.

Coordinator Gail Frisby said after 17 years of providing this service to needy children within the county, the NPD has seen its share of transformations in the eyes of young children.

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“What we do is we get the names of the kids from the Department of Human Services, and we pick them up at their homes, and we take them to breakfast and then to Walmart for clothes, toys and personal items,” Frisby said.

The night before children are picked up to go shopping with officers and volunteers, food is purchased for each child’s family for a Christmas dinner.

The next morning, children will be picked up at 9 a.m. by their assigned police officer or volunteer to start the day off with breakfast at McDonald’s.

Frisby said many children are shy at the beginning of the day, but after breakfast and a bit of playtime, they start to have fun with their chaperoning officers.

“Sometimes, when you first pick them up, they are quiet because they are not used to being picked up by a police officer,” Frisby said.

Frisby said some children have only seen the rough side of police officers from witnessing a family member’s dealings with them, and the program allows each child to see officers as public servants.

“They get a chance to see that police officers are their friends, and we do nice things for people,” Frisby said.

After breakfast, the kids will be taken to go shopping at Walmart, where they will pick out their Christmas gifts.

“Usually, after breakfast and after they’ve finished playing, they get to Walmart and get to shopping, then they come out of their shells,” Frisby said.

After shopping, kids and volunteers will be treated to lunch by Natchez Regional Medical Center before being taken home with full arms, hearts and stomachs.

“By the time we drop them off with their toys and clothes, they are happy,” Frisby said.

Frisby said the number of children chosen to participate relies on the donations and generosity of the community and local businesses.

“People can donate their time or money,” Frisby said. “What we do first to raise money is we get a mailing list from the Chamber of Commerce and do a mass mail out of about 700 letters, and most of the people contribute.”

However, the state of the economy will affect how many children and families will be chosen to participate this year.

“Last year, we had about 70 kids, but it ranges.”

Frisby said she and NPD employee Catherine Latham are in charge of donations, finding names of children and making sure boxes of food are packed for each family.

Frisby said public donations were welcome and greatly needed.

“If anyone wants to donate, they can contact the police station,” Frisby said.

Frisby said children can be nominated for the program through contacting the Department of Human Resources at 601-442-7031.