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Leader staff writer
The Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 16 helped make this Christmas merrier for 29 Jacksonville school students in need. Jacksonville police officers and department staff members took the youngsters shopping for Christmas gifts last Saturday morning at the Walmart Supercenter.
The event “Christmas with our Law Enforcement Friends” was previously called the “Shop with a Cop” program. The shopping day has been an annual yuletide tradition with the police department since 1992. After shopping with members of the police department, the children were treated to a free breakfast donated by McDonald’s.
During the shopping trip, each child was given $100 to spend on Christmas gifts. The money for the shopping day came from police lodge monthly dues, donations and fundraisers.
“It is very exciting to see the children’s faces, their expressions and the hugs from them,” April Kiser, public information officer for the Jacksonville Police Department, said.
The officers took the children around the store as their siblings and parents followed along. The first stop for many was the toy aisles or the electronic department. Dolls were a popular choice for girls. Boys tended to go for video games.
The children picked out a gift for themselves and then used the rest of the money for presents to give to their families.
Shopping carts migrated to other parts of the store as the youngsters visited the clothing areas. At the clothing department, the young shoppers tried on new wardrobes or chose outfits for their siblings. Sisters Nakeeda Wade and Marquisha Powell went to the jewelry department after shopping for clothes, then to the cosmetics aisle for gifts.
Caleb Woodside said he liked shopping with the police. He used some of the money towards presents for his cousin and brothers.
Some of the young shoppers had a budget planned. The calculators soon came out as the children tried to stretch the most out of their Christmas spending money by comparing prices.
“This is a dream, because I always wanted to spend a $100 at Walmart,” Tatiana Jackson said.
Marcia Powell, a parent whose children were shopping, said, “I thought it was nice and generous for the officers to pay for the kids’ Christmas. If it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a Christmas.”
“I think it is wonderful that they help out a whole lot of families in need. Thanks to the police department, the kids are going to have a wonderful Christmas. It was a blessing,” Tashenia Burnett, a parent, said.