Any would-be shoplifter would have seen that the Target department store on Shallowford Road was not the place to be Saturday morning, when several dozen area law enforcement officers met up with low-income families for the annual "Shop with A Cop" program. The program is sponsored by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. About 30 kids were treated to $200 shopping sprees that were heavy on necessities like clothes, with a toy or two thrown in.
At a register lane reserved for the cops, cashiers rang up Spider-Man pajamas, patent leather shoes, stocking caps, board games and dolls, among other items.
"It’s a thrill just to see the excitement on the kids’ faces, knowing they will have a Christmas, knowing they won’t go without," said Hall County Sheriff’s Investigator Don McDuffie, an organizer of this year’s event.
Fraternal Order of Police President Francis Bennett said the recipients are mainly referred by her group’s members, who have a good sense from their daily duties of who needs some help around the holidays.
"Times are hard, and people are needing things," Bennett said. "There are so many folks that are laid off and jobless and need some help, and that’s what we’re here for, is to help."
Gainesville Police Officer Mike Huckaby spent much of the morning looking through racks and displays of children’s sweaters, pants and shoes. The young shopper he was paired with was particular.
"I got a girl — they’re the hardest," he joked.
Hall County Commissioner Deborah Mack came out at the invitation of the FOP and was impressed.
"It’s a good relationship-building experience," Mack said. "It lets the families know that they are here to help."
Said Bennett, "It shows that we don’t just stop you for speeding or take you to jail — we do good things."