Local families are invited to sign up their children for the 36th Annual Shop with a Cop in Haralson County.
The program is taking applications at the Bremen Police Department through Dec. 11 for children up to age 12 who will receive $100 to spend on themselves just in time for Christmas, said Bremen police Chief Keith Pesnell. It’s a program he enjoys every year, Pesnell said.
“We do it under the umbrella of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70,” he said. “It helps us as officers as much as it does those kids. It’s humbling. You can’t do that and not be humbled.”
Taking the children shopping, he said, the officers can see how overwhelmed and grateful the youngsters are when they’re told the have $100 to spend on themselves. Buchanan police Chief Chad Henderson agreed.
“It’s just that look in their eyes,” Henderson said. “You have to see it to understand.”
Every public safety agency including fire departments, 911 and ambulance services in Haralson County assists the Bremen Police Department with the program, Henderson said.
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The program starts on Dec. 21 with breakfast with Santa at the First United Methodist Church in Bremen. After breakfast, the children ages 6 to 12 ride to Wal-Mart in a bus accompanied by police cars with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring for their shopping, Pesnell said. The children often take quite a while to spend their money and it all has to be spent on them, he said. No clothing or food for the family allowed, he added. While the older children are shopping, the parents pick up the gifts for the younger children, he said.
Children younger than 6-years-old don’t go shopping, Pesnell said. Those children receive presents the employees have already purchased for them based on the sizes and preferences listed by their parents on the applications, he said.
The day ends with a catered banquet served to the parents, this year at Covenant Life Church of God that evening, Pesnell said. Childcare is provided for the meal.
“It’s a real nice sit-down meal, where people from the churches in the community they come and wear the white shirts and khaki pants and serve them and treat them real special,” he said. “Some of them say it’s the best meal they get all year.”
The program serves about 150 county children each year, about 120 of them go shopping with the public safety employees, Pesnell said.
The program is funded by donations including a No-Shave November at the police department, which was extended to part of October this year, Pesnell said. The officers paid $20 for the privilege of not shaving in October and $25 for November, he said.
“My policy here is no facial hair, no beards,” Pesnell said. “They were all excited to be able to rough it for a couple of months. So, when you saw my guys out like that, it was for a good cause.”
But a good deal of the money is raised by donations from local residents, and he’s grateful that they have always come through. Whatever the need has been, law enforcement has been able to raise enough to fill it, Pesnell said. It’s the generosity of area residents and their wish to provide Christmas to all children in the community that keeps the program going, he said.
“Really all we are that day is that tool to carry that out,” Pesnell said.