Demetrious Kendricks with the Albany Police Department helps Tytianna Mathis, 9, with a makeup kit on a top shelf. Kendricks volunteered for the program, which provides Christmas presents for underprivileged kids. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY —Officers of the Albany Police Department were in a traffic jam of their own making Saturday, pushing carts through Kmart on Dawson Road.
Shop with a Cop, an initiative by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 2 in Albany, was in full swing in the early morning, with toys and other items leaping from the shelves to help make the holidays a little happier for more than 140 underprivileged kids.
“I put the word out and they all show up. They’re all friends, and they all like it,” said Chuck Simpson, president of the Albany FOP lodge, of the volunteers from the APD, Darton State College and Albany State University.
Simpson said most families selected for participation in the program would receive around $100 worth of items out of the $5,000 available for the event. Funds were raised through a fund drive and from individuals and organizations throughout the area, Simpson said.
Lt. Tracey Barnes with the criminal investigations bureau of the APD has been involved with the shopping program for some 20 years, he said, and never tires of it.
“A lot of these kids wouldn’t see much, if anything, for Christmas if it weren’t for the program,” Barnes said. “I remember right after Hurricane Katrina, we had a lot of folks coming here who were displaced. They lost everything during that time. It’s good to see the interaction between officers and the kids and watch their faces light up when they find what they want. That’s real good.”
Garnett Lincey with ADP was trying his best to find an appropriate Incredible Hulk figure for his five-year-old charge, Tristen Young. As he seemed to be closing on the objective, Tristen decided he’d like “something else.”
“It’s a very good thing,” Garnett said, “and it gives back to the public. It’s good for the kids to see that cops are not as bad as people say we are, because a lot of kids today are raised to actually not like the cops. When I was coming up, the policemen and the firemen were your friends. We want (the kids) to know that they can look to us for help instead of turning away from us when we come out to assist them. I love it.”
“It’s for the kids. I love to see the smiles on their faces,” said Jean Solomon with the Albany Kmart. “I’m usually off on Saturdays, but I got up to come in for this. It’s what Christmas is all about.”
Solomon said Kmart discounts everything 10 percent for the shop event and puts together discount cards of $25 or $50 for the families, depending on individual situations. Kmart works with other organizations including the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, Toys for Tots and the Georgia State Patrol, she said.