Sgt. Rick Windham with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office helps Kalavon Jenkins select a present in Friday’s Shop With a Sheriff at K-Mart. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Twenty-two underprivileged Albany children had an early Christmas Friday, thanks to the Dougherty County Sheriff’s office.
The day started with a lunch featuring oriental-style food followed by some serious Christmas shopping. The children were participating in the 2013 Shop with a Sheriff event presented by the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office.
Escorted by staff or deputy volunteers, children ages 3 through 15 had lunch at Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse on Dawson Road, courtesy of the owner, then moved on to Kmart, also on Dawson Road, to select holiday presents for their families and themselves.
Program coordinator Lt. Terron Hayes with the Sheriff’s Office said the initiative has been going on for “a number of years,” after being started by former sheriff Jamil Saba. The shopping spree is funded by donations from a mix of concerned citizens, churches and local businesses, Hayes said, as well as from the yearly Build Unity in the Community Golf Tournament presented by the Sheriff’s Office.
This year, each child was allotted roughly $100 to purchase “anything his heart desires,” Hayes said. But depending on the individual home situations, there may be some “urging” to purchase practical items such as shoes or clothing.
A snappy pair of blue shoes with orange laces caught the fancy of eight-year-old Sean Reid, who is in the gifted program at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary. He said they were just what he was looking for.
“The thing that I’m surprised about is that usually it takes five or six tries to find some shoes that actually are a good price, and I really like them and they fit me well,” Sean said.
Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul was on hand in full dress uniform, enjoying every minute of what he described as his “favorite day of the year.”
“In our line of work we see so much negative, so much down, so much bad,” Sproul said. “I love coming to a store to actually Christmas shop with kids that are less fortunate or come from situations where they don’t have it as good as other children do. I love the excitement (the children) have when they go around picking out toys or clothes. Some of our staff come in for this even on their days off because they want to give back to the children and to the community.”
Sproul said the Sheriff’s Office will sponsor Christmas gifts for 52 kids this year, with some of them receiving the presents at their homes.
“This is probably my single most enjoyable day of the year for me because I love doing this with the kids,” said Sgt Rick Windham with the Sheriff’s Office. “(The kids) get really excited. Today we went to Tokyo and they did the full menu with the flames. The kids had never seen anything like that.”
“Shop with a Sheriff has been a tradition since it was started by Sheriff Saba,” Sproul said, “It’s been carried on since then, and the tradition will continue as long as I’m sheriff.”