EPD 'Shop With a Cop' seeks donations for Christmas gifts for needy children

Christmas time is a hard time for many families throughout the county seeking to provide some resemblance of a happy morning for their children who awake in hopes that maybe just maybe Santa has decided to pass through on Christmas Eve.
But thanks to the partnership between the Elizabethton Police Department and the Carter County Sheriff's Department, there is hope that some of these kids can experience a wonderful Christmas morning.
In their 'Shop With a Cop' program, both departments are working to secure donations from individuals, churches, and businesses to make that a reality.
This year, the EPD is offering 'Shop With a Cop' t-shirts for $20 which will be used toward the purchase of gifts for the children. Individuals can stop by the Elizabethton Police Department front reception area to pay and pick up their shirts.
"We have small through 2XL," said Kendra Fields who is handling the t-shirt sales. "If we are out of a size, we can order them."
"This will be our fifth year," said Elizabethton Police Department Sergeant Will Johnson. "We started with 30 some kids and we have doubled that as last year it was over 60 kids. Those are picked through the school system and tell us who the needy kids are. It is for city and county kids so we try to split it up between us as the sheriff's department takes 30-plus kids and we take the other 30-plus kids."
According to Johnson, funds are brought to the department by donations from the general public.
"We have had churches bring checks worth thousands of dollars," said Johnson. "Cindy Duffie from Walmart works with us and we couldn't do it without that partnership."
The night of the shopping begins with a huge pizza party at Elizabethton High School Commons Area as Little Caesars donates pizzas and Coke Cola provides the drinks for the event. Officers meet the child they are shopping with and sit and talk with them while eating.
After a time of fellowship and greeting all the elves and Santa, the kids load buses provided by the Elizabethton School System for the short ride to Walmart where their officer buddy meets them when they get off the bus and begin their shopping venture where they can purchase most of anything they might want with a few restrictions applied.
In years past, the kids have been given gift cards up to $150 but with the increase in products, Johnson said they hope to provide $200 cards this year. On top of the items the children purchase, each family will receive a food box packed for a delicious Christmas meal usually with a ham and all the fixings which is also purchased with the funds raised and a special rate given to the departments by Walmart on the items for the food box. Johnson said the box is normally about $60 of food.
And while the money given seems to many like a lot, Johnson said what makes the night filled with memories is that some of the officers even take money out of their own pocket to help the kids should they run over making for an extra blessing for that officer.
Walmart will also have a Santa present and some of the associates set up an area for cookies and a craft table.
Johnson admitted that none of this would be possible without the public's assistance.
"Without the public donating we could not do it. When the word goes out, people usually start bringing donations by. The funds go to City Hall where it is kept up with," said Johnson.
The age limit for the event is school age up to 18-years-old.

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