How to help
Donate to the program before Dec. 11 by:
• Visiting www.dplanlodge82.org, clicking on “Cops and Kids,” and selecting the PayPal link
• Mail a check made out to “FOP D.P. Land Lodge” to FOP Lodge No. 82, PO Box 1374, Cumming, GA, 30028 with “Cops and Kids” in the subject line
• Give cash or check to any FOP board member
A young Forsyth County girl had $125 to spend at Walmart one year just a few weeks before Christmas.
The top item on her wish list wasn’t a toy or game, but a blanket.
“That breaks your heart,” said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Shelton, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.
Shelton and the other members of the Sgt. D.P. Land Memorial Lodge No. 82 are preparing for the annual Cops and Kids shopping event, in which law enforcement officers take underprivileged children to the retailer before Christmas.
The lodge is seeking donations to allow as many children to shop as possible in December, about two weeks before the holiday.
Though the kids can buy anything with the gift money, Shelton said they often are practical or thoughtful with their purchases, like the young girl who wanted a blanket because she couldn’t stay warm at night.
“A lot of times, even though it’s their time to shop for them … they want to share and make sure that everybody in the house has a Christmas gift,” he said.
The kids, ages 3 to 14, often gravitate toward shoes and clothes as well, so they can dress like their peers, he said.
The national program, once called Shop with a Cop, has been held locally all but one year since 1996.
The shopping day aims to provide underprivileged children with a happy holiday, but it also gives the young people a positive experience with members of law enforcement.
“A lot of times they see us in a negative light,” he said. “Say they’ve had a family member who’s been taken to jail because of a broken home situation or something.
“They see that we’re good. We’re not all bad. We’re here to help them, not hurt them, and their best interest is our best interest.”
The experience is one the local deputies enjoy too, he said, since it gives them a chance to give back to the community.
“We do deal with bad people all the time, so it’s nice to deal with somebody or someone in a positive light, especially children,” Shelton said.
The lodge members will take at least 75 children shopping this year, plus an additional one for each $125 donated.
All donations go directly to the shopping trip and stay within Forsyth County, Shelton said.
He hopes to bring more than 100 children to the Wal-Mart on Market Place Boulevard.
The kids who shop are selected through the Forsyth County school system, The Place of Forsyth, Abba House and other local nonprofits.
The lodge focuses on helping underprivileged children who aren’t already being given a similar opportunity from another agency, Shelton said.
“This is one of the most giving counties I’ve ever been associated with,” he said. “This is a program that I truly in my heart believe in. We all do. The joy that we get out of seeing the joy on their faces is just tremendous.”