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Law officers conduct 'Shop with a Sheriff'

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul addresses the group participating in “Shop with a Sheriff” Wednesday. A group of underprivileged children ate lunch and went shopping as part of the annual outreach effort.

Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul addresses the group participating in “Shop with a Sheriff” Wednesday. A group of underprivileged children ate lunch and went shopping as part of the annual outreach effort.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Nineteen children ate lunch and shopped at Kmart with personnel from the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday as part of the office's annual "Shop with a Sheriff" event.

The event, part of an outreach effort by the office, focuses on children in need.

Before going to Kmart, the group had lunch at Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. After the group got settled into the restaurant, Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul asked them if it was their first time visiting an establishment of that kind.

Every child raised his or her hand.

"Being sheriff is a unique position to be in," Sproul said. "This is my favorite day of the year.

"(This event) provides hope, light and love."

Sproul said that the children were selected as a result of visits to various Dougherty County schools and speaking to their respective counselors, who, in turn, recommended children who would benefit from the experience.

The children and their families are checked out before they are brought in, Sproul said. In all, there were more than 30 children connected to the office's effort, but only 19 were able to participate in Wednesday's outing, the sheriff said.

Kmart, a longtime advocate of "Shop with a Sheriff," provided gift cards worth $85-$115 to purchase the items the children wanted. The participants are typically given a discount and provided with gift-wrapping services, Sproul said.

The funds for the event come from a golf tournament as well as from the area Exchange Club. Lunch is complimentary to the children, with the restaurant taking care of the children and the Sheriff's Office usually taking care of its staff, Sproul said.

Last year, the restaurant absorbed the full cost of the bill, the sheriff said.

All the adults, one for each child present, were employees with the Sheriff's Office in some capacity -- and officials say there was a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the adults for the program.

"The (sign-up) list is put out in November and in a day or two all the slots are filled up," Sproul said. "I've worked with children since 1991. ... I've seen so many broken families. There are so many hurdles and challenges every day.

"For some of these kids, just to get to first base is a hurdle."