Santa Cop provides meals, clothes, toys for children
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2010
NATCHEZ — On Dec. 18, police officers and sheriff’s deputies will assist 30 lucky children in scratching some items off their Christmas lists.
Police cruisers will pick up each child participating in Santa Cop program and deliver the boys and girls to their homes later with bags and tummies full of goodies.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Santa Cop, an annual program sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police that pairs law enforcement officials with local needy children for a day of Christmas fun.
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Natchez police officers, Adams County sheriff’s deputies and Emergency Medical Responders will first drive the children to McDonalds at Tracetown for 8 a.m. breakfast to fuel up for a day of shopping, Sharlot Chapman said.
Chapman is a Santa Cop committee member, FOP board of trustees member and retired police officer.
Natchez Regional Medical Center will host the cop-and-kid crew for lunch.
Chapman said the children enjoy the gifts, of course, but the program also offers children the benefit of getting to know the authority figures.
“This is a good opportunity for the police to interact with the children and let them know that a police officer is their friend, and the children can come to us if they need anything,” Chapman said.
The two-decade-old program took a temporary hit this year when the organization’s former treasurer embezzled approximately $15,000 from the organization, but FOP President Jerry Ford said the charitable funds were recovered.
Ford said the FOP decided against soliciting donations for the charitable event this year because of poor publicity it received during the embezzlement issue.
He said in past years, letters were mailed to businesses and individuals asking for donations.
Ford said the FOP has a new set of governing members since the embezzlement came to light and has changed the way it operates as a business.
“We are asking in the future that (past contributors) would consider giving again to the FOP and Santa Cop because those children are very much in need and we would like to reach a long arm to as many families and kids as we can,” Ford said.
“I hope in doing so we will be able to gain the respect of the public again and reassure them that this (new) leadership and this administration with FOP will make sure that there is a bright future for everyone who contributes and who receives.”
Ford said he wanted the public to know the FOP Lodge is not the type of agency to tolerate embezzlement and its new leadership is moving it in the right direction as far as handling funds.
The way the Santa Cop program works has also evolved.
The Santa Cop committee is the first committee to head up the program, Ford said.
Chapman said the committee changed the way children are chosen for the program. She said the committee contacted guidance counselors from local schools and Catholic Charities for assistance in choosing participants rather than allowing the Mississippi Department of Human Resources to pick them.
Ford said the FOP will make sure the children picked have the greatest needs and have not participated in the program in the past.
“The advantage is it will make sure every child has a fair chance of getting immediate assistance,” Ford said.
Ford said the new system for how to operate the Santa Cop program was devised at an executive meeting with the state FOP that the local branch attended when the lodge recently made changes.
Chapman said some of the approximately $150 that will go to each child will be spent on groceries to ensure the child’s family has a good meal on Christmas.
Because the FOP is not soliciting donations this year, less money is available for the Christmas program, but the organization is still accepting donations. To donate to the Santa Cop program, mail a check to Santa Cop, P.O. Box 97, Natchez, MS 39121. Make checks payable to the Fraternal Order of Police with “Santa Cop” written in the memo line.
When Chapman has shopped with children in the past, she said she usually takes them to the clothing departments first for the necessities.
Then after picking out pants, shirts, socks, underwear and coats — it’s off to the toy aisle.
“We’ll have fun doing it, and they’ll have fun doing it too,” Chapman said.