By David Klein
Area officers came together Thursday night for a good cause. Thursday evening at the Walmart by Knoxville Center, several Knoxville Police Department officers, Knox County Sheriff’s Officers, and other police came together in an event organized by the Fraternal Order of Police Volunteer Watch #2, to give back to the community and shop with local families in need, in an event called “Shop with a Cop.”
Officers recommended the families, and those families could use a $100 gift card for each child. This year, the Fraternal Order of Police hosted about 360 children and about160 families. Families could go around the Walmart and shop with an officer if they wished, or they pre-shopped on their own. When the families completed their shopping, the officers took them to the register to check out.
Nationwide, there are many shop with a cop Christmas events. The Knoxville Fraternal Order of Police event began approximately 13 years ago, Mark Taylor, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Volunteer Watch #2 said. It is just one of many programs the organization does. “We try to have officers recommend families to us on their beat,” Taylor said. “It’s a chance for law enforcement to go out in the community and build those relationships,” he added. The funding for the event comes from community donations.
Throughout the year, the Fraternal Order of Police does a Back to school Shop with a Cop event to help kids with back to school expenses, as well as events at ballgames.
One mother of two boys, Amanda Easterday, was very grateful for the program. “I’m really glad they’re able to do it,” Easterday said.” I did it for back to school and that helped out so much. I was able to get my son’s clothes and everything.”
Shelley Clemons, special crimes unit investigator with the K.P.D., said, “We’re very much a part of our communities in which we live in,” she said. “As officers we care about the communities, especially our beats where we patrol.”
“I absolutely love this,” Lieutenant in Patrol Savannah Ayub said. “It’s heartwarming. To help families is just tremendous,” she added.
“Some of these children, they just would not have a Christmas if they didn’t have this program involved,” Walmart co-manager Heather Hajek said. “To be a part of the Shop with a Cop and be able to provide that need and be here as a place that provides a need for the community, is really exciting for us.” Walmart had extra staffing on-hand for the event, Hajek said.
Charlie Bundren, Financial Secretary and Director of Fundraising for the Fraternal Order of Police, Volunteer Watch Number 2, said, “we couldn’t do it without the community,” To donate to Shop with A Cop, call 247-0087.