Local law enforcement gives low-income children an early Christmas

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FULTON - Local law enforcement partnered to enable more than forty children from low-income households to purchase holiday gifts for themselves and family members. The Fulton Fire and Police Departments along with the Holts Summit Fire and Police Departments, Fulton EMS, Fulton Corrections Department and the National Guard came together to host the annual Shop with a Cop event on Saturday. 

The Shop with a Cop event began at 7 a.m. at the Fulton Police Department, where officers, officials and volunteers gathered. Schools and local agencies notified parents about the program. Parents were able to drop their children if they weren't able to stay for the event.

"It meant a lot for me, being a single mom, to let my kids go into a store with their partners and their cops, and be able to pick what they wanted without me saying 'no I can't get that,'" said Fulton resident and mother of three, Tonya Smith.

"It was amazing it was a blessing," Smith said.

Each volunteer was given a $100 Walmart gift card and $10 in case the purchase went over the gift card amount. 

From 7:30 am to 8 a.m., each child was paired with a first responder and emergency vehicle, and was given a Christmas stocking with a gift card from Dollar General along with toys donated from the store.

The assigned first responders turned on the sirens and lights to stop traffic, as the children rode along with them to Walmart.The emergency vehicles participating included military trucks, ambulances, fire trucks and squad cars.

Once at Walmart, each child was able to select and purchase items of their choice, and also had the option of getting the items wrapped by Walmart employees. As law enforcement officials waited for each child to finish shopping, they spent time playing with the children and their toys, and allowed the children to explore the emergency vehicles.

"They got to push the buttons and interact with the cops," Smith said.

Smith said it was important for children to bond with law enforcement, "Just to build that trust knowing that they are there to help them, and lift their spirits."

 All of the children chose items for themselves, but many of them purchased items to give to loved ones for the holidays. Bryan Reid of the Holts Summit Police Department said the event served 47 kids this year.

"This is a good way for us to give back," Reid said. "It's children that would probably not have as good of Christmas."