Season of Wishes: Santa Cop takes children on holiday shopping patrol
Published 12:07 am Wednesday, December 3, 2014
NATCHEZ — Local law enforcement officers will take a brief break from catching criminals this month to take special area children shopping for Christmas gifts.
But in order to make sure each child receives enough items on their list, those organizing the trip are asking community members to reach into their pockets and donate.
Santa Cop is the annual program sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police that partners local law enforcement officials with needy children for a day of holiday shopping fun.
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Natchez Police Department officers and other local law enforcement officials will be picking up nearly 50 lucky children Dec. 20 for breakfast at McDonald’s, shopping at Walmart and then lunch afterward.
Jerry Ford, NPD detective and president of the FOP, said the group selects the children in need by communicating with guidance counselors at local schools and the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
“These are the folks in our community who know who the needy children are because they know about their circumstances,” Ford said. “We want to allow those children to have a great Christmas by taking them on this trip, but we’re asking the public to generously and quickly give so we can make sure that happens.”
The children will get to pick out clothes, toys and other items during their shopping trip.
The number of children, Ford said, selected for Santa Cop depends on the amount of money the group receives through donations to the program.
The goal of the trip is to purchase nearly $150 worth of items for each child.
“We want to make sure they’re getting everything they need, because some of these kids, the counselors tell us, don’t have a winter coat to wear,” Ford said. “After we get all that stuff taken care of, then we switch to the toys with what’s left.”
Ford said the program is essential to the community because it helps ensure needy children in the area will have something for Christmas.
“Keeping the children in our community safe and protected is No. 1 for us,” Ford said. “We want to make sure all these kids are in a safe and happy environment all the time, but especially during the holidays.”
Seeing the children walking through the store and picking out their Christmas gifts, Ford said, is truly a special moment.
“When you see the expressions on their faces as they’re getting these things … it’s something else,” Ford said. “It’s quite rewarding to see how happy they are to have these things and know they’re going to have a good Christmas.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the Santa Cop program can drop off monetary donations at the police department or send checks made out to the Natchez Fraternal Order of Police — Shop with a Cop/Santa Cop to P.O. Box 97, Natchez MS 39120.
Ford said volunteers are also needed to take children throughout the store on the day of the trip.
To volunteer or for more information about the program, call Ford at 601-445-7543.