Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
Katherine Lee said when she woke up her two girls, Bailey and Madison, on Saturday morning, she didn’t tell them where they were going. She wanted it to be a surprise.
“When they got here and found out what they were doing, they were so excited,” Lee said.
Her daughters were among more than two dozen children chosen this year for the annual Shop with a Cop program, sponsored by the Wilson Law Enforcement Fellowship.
The children shopped till they dropped Saturday morning at Walmart. And they couldn’t stop smiling as they picked out toys for Christmas.
Lee’s 7-year-old daughter, Bailey, said she was excited.
“I got earmuffs,” she said, as she held onto her new “Flip a Zoo” pillow. Bailey also showed off other things she decided to get her brother.
“We’ve been struggling real hard this year,” her mother said after her two daughters filled their shopping carts with gifts. “It was just a huge, huge blessing because they have a little brother at home, too. It really, really helped out.”
Lee said when they found out they were chosen for the shopping spree, they cried.
“They came to our door,” she said. “When he told me, I cried. I gave him a huge hug.”
‘IT’S A SURPRISE’
Agencies who participated in Shop with a Cop Saturday included the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Wilson Police Department, Wilson County EMS, Wilson County 911 and Stantonsburg Police Department.
Wilson Police Sgt. Matt London said each school counselor picked the most needy child in his or her school. And if children had a brother or sister between ages 5 and 10, they were included as well.
“We expanded it,” London said. “We just enjoy the whole experience. They get to see us in a different light. It’s a surprise factor for them, too. The counselor tells them their child may be selected. But they all got calls Friday, confirming they were selected.”
‘WHERE TO NEXT?’
Eight-year-old Ja’Quish Lane didn’t know where to start. But he made his way down the aisle filled with toys.
“He loves wrestling,” said his mother, Latifah Bowens.
He also made sure to take a trip to the area where the video games were.
“Where to next?” Wilson Police Sgt. Stuart Haste asked him. “The store is yours.”
At one point, Ja’Quish said he was finished shopping, but police officers reminded him he had more money to spend. That’s when the 8-year-old, who loves sports, knew where to go to next. He wanted a mouth guard and a pair of football gloves.
Bowens said she was grateful for the program.
“It helps a lot,” she said, adding that she’s raising three children by herself. She said the shopping trip was also a huge blessing.
Before the children got started Saturday morning, sheriff’s Capt. Ben Mercer called out the children’s names, getting them pumped up for the big shopping spree.
Mercer, who is over the sheriff’s office patrol division, later said during the year deputies get all kinds of calls where they deal with victims, people who are hurt and injured or something bad going on their life. And they want children to see them in a different role.
“Any time during the year kids need to have a good day, it’s Christmas,” Mercer said. “I always loved Christmas growing up and now it’s our time to give back to other people in the community.”
Stantonsburg Police Chief Orlando Rosario said when he took over the department two years ago, he wanted to be a part of Shop with a Cop. He said instead of doing it on his own, he wanted to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies.
“It’s all for the kids,” he said. “We don’t want the kids to think the only time police show up is when somebody is in trouble. We’re regular people, too.”
John Royer with Wilson County 911 said it was a great opportunity for the children.
“Some kids are less fortunate than other kids,” he said. “And this gives them a chance to experience what Christmas is all about.”
Fike High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC cadets assisted law enforcement Saturday as they shopped with the children.