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Shop With a Cop brightens Christmas for children
Gainesville police to give out gifts
Officer Brian Clark searches Thursday morning for a Christmas gift in the toy department at Walmart as he looks for items to fulfill a child’s wish list. The Gainesville Police Department is sponsoring 12 children this Christmas. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Today, 12 children will be getting the Christmas presents they hoped for, thanks to the Gainesville Police Department, the Rotary Club and Walmart.

Gainesville police are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Shop with a Gainesville Cop event.

“It’s kind of big for us,” police spokesman Cpl. Joe Britte said. “Kevin (Holbrook) and I and the school resource officers have been doing it for 10 years and really enjoy this day.”

Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to around 1:30 p.m., with the help of Walmart associates, Gainesville police spent around $265 for each child in need.

Today at 11 a.m., Britte said, one of the Walmart employees will dress up as Santa, and a reception will be held in the layaway aisle for the parents as the children are presented their gifts.

Parents will be provided boxed meals from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, and chicken oven roasters from local poultry company Pilgrim’s Pride.

“We want to definitely thank Walmart, Rotary Club, Pilgrim’s Pride, Boys & Girls Clubs. We really want to send a huge shout-out to them; they were awesome, and our community in general,” Britte said.

Prominent in the news now are images of children with cops, but for dark reason.

The elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has sent shock waves throughout the country.

“We use this day not only to celebrate with our children, but it makes us celebrate even more that we’re able to celebrate with them,” he said.

Remembering the families of those 20 kids who won’t be around for Christmas make it that much moreimportant to support children, Britte said.

“A lot of families and moms and dads go to their children and give them that extra hug, give them that extra kiss, say ‘You know something? I appreciate you with me and you being on Earth with me,’” he said. “Because you don’t know today and you don’t know tomorrow.”

The kids the police shopped for were elementary- and middle-school-aged.

“We use this day to really uplift the spirits of the kids because I think it sent shock waves not only to us as adults, but kids also, because they are old enough to understand that those 20 kids lost their lives,” he said. “Our support for children and the way we care for children will continue regardless of what goes on; this is a special day for children, regardless.”

Britte said next year, the police hope to pick out the present with the children, if timing permits.

“They’re still in school. We don’t want to take them out of school until the last day, which is tomorrow.”

He said support from the community for the event has been outstanding; police even had to refuse donations from a local business owner when they were shopping.

“I had to turn him down, finally. He said, ‘Well if you need anything, you let me know.’ That’s the response we get from our wonderful community,” Britte said.

“It’s unfortunate that the tragedy happened in Newtown, but it just shows that we are a strong country, and we are going to pull together, and we are going to stand together, even in times of crisis,” Britte said.