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Shop with a Cop event provides gifts for children in need
Yareli Villagomez, 6, pulls out one of her gifts while big brother Bryant, 7, looks on Friday afternoon at Walmart during the Gainesville Police Department’s annual Shop With A Cop party.

Sure, police officers spend a lot of time fighting crime and keeping the community safe. But did you know they also can be excellent shoppers?

A group of officers met at Walmart on Friday afternoon to bring a little Christmas spirit to local kids at the eighth annual Shop with a Cop event.

Shop with a Cop relies on sponsors such as the Gainesville Police Department, Walmart, the Gainesville School System and the Gainesville Rotary Club to provide Christmas presents for local children who may otherwise not receive gifts.

Joe Britte, a master police officer and crime prevention officer in the specialized services division of the Gainesville Police Department, said that Rick Boyd and the Rotary Club provided $1,000 toward the event.

"We do a large Christmas party for the Rotary Club members and their children and grandchildren, and we decided to funnel some of the money that we normally spend on that Christmas party and donate it to children who aren’t so privileged," said Boyd, president of the Rotary.

Gainesville officers acted as elves on Thursday, shopping in Walmart for the perfect presents to present at Friday’s gathering.

"The kids provided a wish list by the parents, and we were able to shop for the kids and pretty much get everything on the list for them," Britte said.

Britte teamed up with local school resource officers and school counselors to find needy children for the event. With the $156 or so dollars allowed to be spent on each child, video games, iPods, shoes, and clothes were popular choices. However, Britte said that the "hottest items" were baking ovens and muffin makers.

"I guess they will be great cooks when they grow up," said Britte, who believes that the Shop with a Cop program is a "win-win program for everyone."

"During this holiday season, we know that tough times financially occur for everyone, and we are glad that we can give back to the community in so many ways," Britte said.

Britte believes that "a smile speaks volumes with kids."

"When we are able to provide Christmas for these kids, that just makes the day go a whole lot better," he said.

The kids were able to get their gifts from Santa while snacking on cookies at Walmart.

Mother Teasha Thornton said she enjoyed coming to watch her daughters, Dadriana Osborne, 8, and Da-Niya Osborne, 5, receive their gifts because she’s a single parent and the gifts are helpful for her.

The girls were hoping for a scooter and skates, which they received in their Christmas bags.

Thornton believes that the Shop with a Cop program teaches her daughters that cops are friendly people.

"A lot of kids are afraid of cops because of what bad people do," Thornton said.

It was Chief Frank Hooper’s last Shop with a Cop event, as he will be retiring at the end of the year.

Hooper said that the program "really pulls the community together and helps out some families and children and makes sure they have a good Christmas."

Hooper said that Christmas is all about giving back.

"Christmas should be more about giving than receiving, and that’s exactly what this is," he said.