30 kids “Shop with a Cop”
Published 11:01 am Tuesday, December 21, 2021
By Neil B. McGahee
Every December for the past seven years, Cordele Police officers put aside the dangers of their profession to participate in “Shop with a Cop,” the annual program that pairs 30 underprivileged and at-risk children ages 5-9 with a law enforcement officer for a Wal-Mart shopping spree leading up to Christmas.
As the children exited a school bus, they met a police officer, who had a monetary gift for them that they could spend any way they wished. Soon shopping carts cluttered the aisles as the kid and the cop loaded with as many gifts as the cart could hold.
“This event started when a small group of officers passed the hat and collected money to take a single needy child shopping for toys,” Cordele Police Chief Mike Hathaway said.
“Each year the program has grown as retailers and other businesses signed on to help with the expenses.”
The children are usually identified by schoolteachers and administration, resource officers or after-school program staff. They may be in need of clothes or shoes for school, home items, or just some extra time and a friend to listen.
Hathaway said his policy of community policing requires opportunities to interact with the public.
“It is vitally important to build relationships with these kids and let them see that we are regular folk too,” he said. “The hope is that the experience of shopping alongside a Cordele Police officer will result in a positive image of law enforcement that will carry into their adolescence and adulthood,”