Children spend day with special Santas in blue

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Santa came early this year for a group of children in the Miss-Lou.

With Christmas less than a week away, 30 children from the area took part in the Natchez Police Department’s annual Santa Cop shopping day.

Santa Cop is an annual program that pairs law enforcement officers with local needy children for a Christmas-filled day of excitement.

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The day started off for the children when an NPD employee picked them up for a breakfast trip to McDonald’s.

After breakfast, the children accompanied their officers and community volunteers to Walmart for a little Christmas shopping spree.

Alexys Conerly, 7, of Natchez said she had a fun time shopping with NPD officer Kawanski Reed.

Conerly said she wanted a Nintendo DS XL with Cookie Mama 3 for Christmas as she and Reed browsed the clothing for a new outfit.

The children get to pick out one outfit, including pants, shirt, undergarments, socks and shoes and one toy.

Reed said this is her fourth year to work with the program and said she always feels good helping out children in need.

“I started out in this program as a student,” she said. “It has meant a lot to me, and I always love to see the smile on their faces.”

Reed said the program is meant to let the children have a little bit of normalcy for the holidays.

NPD Captain Tom McGehee said this is the 18th year of the program, and it is always a fun experience for the children and the officers.

“We wish we could shop for everyone who needs it,” he said. “It is just good to be out here helping out who we can.”

Erica Smith, 14, of Natchez was shopping for clothes with NPD officer Joyce Jackson and said she was excited to be Christmas shopping.

“The officers have been really nice and helpful,” she said. “I have had a great morning.”

Smith said she wanted clothes more than anything this year, and Jackson was sure to help her find exactly what she needed.

“Those are going to look a lot better,” Jackson said to Smith, who was holding up a pair of pants. “I think you should get them.”

Jackson said she has been helping the Santa Cop program for as long as she can remember, and it is a great experience for the children who participate.

“It lets them see the police as more than people who just make arrests,” she said.

Jackson also said seeing the joy on each child’s face makes the whole experience worth it.

“We all enjoy doing this for the kids,” she said. “You have to enjoy it, or else you wouldn’t be up here on your day off trying to make someone’s Christmas better.”

The Santa Cop program is funded by donations from the community.

Children are selected by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.