JONESBORO, Ark. – It has become tradition in Jonesboro for a decade and it is not just something the kids look forward to.
Saturday, December 3 is the Shop with a Cop event hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #8. FOP chapter president, Nathan Coleman, described the anticipation as building among officers for the fun event.
“All of the officers are volunteers,” Coleman said. “Nobody in the FOP gets paid. We’re looking at having about 40 officers helping us this time which is unbelievable and this is going to be the largest group of kids we’ve ever taken – just under 40 kids.”
Groups of children selected from Jonesboro, Westside, Nettleton, Bay, Valley View, Brookland and Trumann schools will be given an allowance of $100 and get to decide where and how they want to spend it for the holidays. They get to do so with a special chauffeur – a uniformed police officer.
In addition, a group of children from DHS will also be selected to participate.
“We’re looking at about 15 then, who they feel this will make the most impact on -respectful kids,” Coleman said. “A lot of those kids, this is very much-needed for them.”
The Shop with a Cop event was started by the Rotary Club of Jonesboro, Coleman said. They asked law enforcement to help with it and the FOP stepped up, filling the positions with officers ever since.
This year, the Rotary Club received a grant to sponsor all 40 kids to help make sure the most possible get to enjoy this unique opportunity.
“We had originally planned for 30 and now we’re doing more,” Coleman said. “Typically, we pick them up and we go to Chik-Fil-A and they cover the meal for the kid and the officer. They’re in this year. A lot of these kids I’ve taken in years past, they’ve never been to Chik-Fil-A or had it. They’ll cover like 75, 80 meals that day. I’m very thankful they’re on our side in this.”
But Coleman added that some of the youths are ready to go shopping and aren’t shy to say so.
“This year, Academy Sports has offered a $10 gift card for the kids,” Coleman said. “Typically, businesses will cover the overage if it goes over with taxes.”
Plus, GiGi’s Cupcakes has offered 40 gift certificates for free cupcakes for the kids as well. The Citizen’s Police Academy will also help coordinate with parents.
It helps giving the children extra options. Some come from underprivileged homes and have heart wrenching stories.
“I had a kid in one of the first years and the kid said his foster parents had just got him and he was really in need of clothing,” Coleman said. “He had a list of clothing he needed, underwear, socks. So we spent $80 on clothing and someone came up and asked what was going on. He handed something like $40 to the little man and he was able to spend $60 on toys.”
Officers have come to love the event, as well, Coleman described. One officer who had never participated did so last year and the child with him ended the day asking if he could go home with the officer. It was a special bond formed in those short hours of shopping which makes a lifetime of impact on both the youth and the officer.
Once I did it the first time, I was hooked,” Coleman said. “Most of the time, a lot of these officers have worked the night before or worked a full 8 hour shift and now they’re here, and give us eight to noon or eight to one, depending on the kid. When an officer who has never participated in this before does it, they’re typically overwhelmed. I think this year is going to be one of the most memorable for people.”
If any busnesses want to participate, contact Nathan Coleman at the FOP Website.