Liberty County law enforcement officers, with the help of local businesses, churches and Walmart associates, made the holiday season a little brighter for children in need at the annual Shop With a Cop event in Cleveland on Friday, Dec. 9.
Representing the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, Pct. 5 and Pct. 6 constable’s offices, Cleveland Police Department and other agencies, the officers and deputies were paired with the 63 children who were picked as recipients in this year’s event, which is organized by Resurrection Ministries of Cleveland.
Each child received a $50 gift card that they could then use to purchase items within Walmart. For some of the children, this meant purchasing a single item that would have otherwise been impossible for their families. For other children, they stretched the money to purchase several items.
Single mom Kira Fobbs, of Cleveland, and her three children – Skailar, Isaiah and Zaiden – were paired with Sgt. Tommy Koen with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. Fobbs said the assistance is greatly appreciated as she only recently returned to the workforce and has little financial resources for Christmas presents.
“This is helping me big time. I have been struggling,” said Fobbs, as her eyes welled with tears. “My mom and other family members can only help us so much. This is a big help to me.”
Meanwhile, her children, blissfully unaware of her struggles to support them, were happily picking their presents with Koen’s help.
“Can we open one before Christmas?” one child asked.
Seeing their excitement, she yielded and replied, smiling, “Just one.”
Shop With a Cop in Cleveland is in its seventh year. Each year approximately 50-60 children receive assistance. All are vetted by Resurrection Ministries’ Sister Juanita Lewis to determine if their families are experiencing a true need.
“We go into their homes and assess their situation,” Lewis told Bluebonnet News. “The economy is creating a strain for some families.”
A shared sentiment among the law enforcement officers is that it is an opportunity to have a positive interaction with children who might otherwise see them in a negative light.
“I think it’s important for us to have this interaction with the children of our community,” said Pct. 5 Constable David Hunter. “It brings us all a little closer, and hopefully they will be more comfortable around police in the future. We are here to protect them and be their friend, not be their enemy.”
A child shopping with Hunter on Friday, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, said, “I want to be a police officer.” It was a winning moment for Hunter.
Aaron Weddington, manager of the Cleveland Walmart, is still hoping that donations in the coming years will grow to the point where each child receives $100, but for now, he is happy that so many children were able to be helped through the program.
“I think it’s important for the partnership between the community and law enforcement. For our police officers, it’s all about serving. They are here to help. Sometimes kids may get a bad vibe about police officers, but this will help the kids see that police officers are people like the rest of us,” he said.