Thanks to a big assist from Pizza Hut, Williamsburg police were able to take about 145 children on $100 shopping sprees at Wal-Mart Thursday night as part of the Williamsburg Police Department’s 12th Annual Shop with a Cop event.
“It is the most rewarding thing that we do as police officers,” said Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird. “We are just glad to be able to help kids out, who are less fortunate, and families that are down on their luck. It is just a good thing all around for us. It is heart warming for us to know we are able to provide a Christmas to kids, who may not otherwise get Christmas.”
In November, Pizza Hut Inc. donated $5,000 to the Shop with a Cop program thanks to a grant that workers at the Williamsburg Pizza Hut had applied for.
This month, Pizza Hut chipped in another $5,700 for the effort, which was running short due to a couple of fundraisers for the event that got cancelled.
“Because of Pizza Hut’s donation, we got to bump up the number of children we took shopping a little bit,” noted Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison, who thanked the pizza chain for its much-needed help.
Harrison agreed with Bird that Shop with a Cop is a very rewarding experience.
“It is probably one of my favorite things,” Harrison said. “I have already fell in love with one young man. The first thing he did when he saw Santa Claus was look at him and go, ‘I love you.’ It is things like that. It is the family camaraderie from the people taking them shopping and the families themselves. It will touch your heart.”
Nancy Rainwater, who has been raising her six-year-old grandson, Tyler Gabbard, since May, said Thursday’s event meant a lot to her.
“It sure helps,” she added when asked about the difficulties of raising a grandchild, especially around Christmas time.
Deborah Nietzel noted that the biggest thrill for her great niece, who she is helping to raise, wasn’t the toys she was buying, but rather getting to shop with a police officer.
“She loves cops. She is fascinated with them. She didn’t know until we got down here that she was shopping with a cop,” Nietzel noted. “She has had more fun touching his uniform than she has shopping for toys. She loves that uniform. She said last night she wants to be a cop.”
Harrison added that he would like to thank all the volunteers, who came out Thursday to assist with the program.
In addition to several Williamsburg police officers, all the employees from city hall, social workers, Whitley County Sheriff’s deputies, jailers, Wal-Mart employees and several employees from the Williamsburg Pizza Hut also took part.
“The support from all the volunteers was phenomenal. It made it go really, really smooth,” Harrison said. “I also want to thank the paper for coming out and for your coverage.”
Harrison noted that a small portion of the proceeds raised for Shop with a Cop are also used to buy Christmas fruit baskets for local senior citizens, who are part of the Senior Patrol Program.
The Senior Patrol Program involves Williamsburg police calling to check up on local senior citizens, who sign up for the program.
Officers will help out the seniors involved in the program through several ways, such as sometimes going to pick up prescription medication or groceries if they are unable to get out.