The Valdosta Daily Times
While last Friday’s school shooting has prompted parents around the country to hold their children tighter this holiday season, 25 Lowndes County families spent Monday night in the care of cops during the Valdosta Police Department’s Eighth Annual Shop with a Cop program at the Walmart Supercenter on Inner Perimeter Road.
There were 25 kids and their families paired with 25 cops. The teams of cops and families were tasked with turning 25 cards into gifts for Dec. 25. Valdosta Police Officer Vernotis Williams, event organizer, said the Shop with a Cop program aims to provide Christmas gifts where finances and circumstances wouldn’t normally allow, and its therapeutic for the officers involved, too.
“We look as if we wear tough skin, but we’re people, too, and we deal with tough issues in our own lives,” said Williams. “Despite all of the bad things I’ve had to go through, that child’s smile makes it go away.”
Each child was given a card worth $199.98, said Williams, thanks to large contributions from law-enforcement agencies and the efforts of the Street Sweepers Car Club of Valdosta. Wally Moore said that it was the second year his club has participated in the event.
“We’re a non-profit organization and we love kids,” said Moore. “We put on car shows and all of the proceeds go to charity. We raised over $1,000 for
Shop with a Cop during our Make Christmas Happen car show.”
Not all of the gift cards were dispensed during the pre-shopping spree meet-up at the Valdosta’s police headquarters, said Williams, who said a spare card was given to the first non-participating child that approached him to say hello during the event. After walking by a few pairs of adverted eyes, one child ran Williams down.
“I told her that she had just won $200 and she and her mom were floored,” said Williams. “From that moment to the point they checked out, that little girl has not dropped her smile. She has picked up everything Barbie that you can imagine.”
Participating agencies included the Valdosta Police Department, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, Valdosta State University Police Department, Echols County’s Sheriff’s Office, Lanier County Sheriff’s Office, Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
After the shopping spree ended, the group headed to the break room for pizza and punch catered by the Five Points Pizza Hut. Yashica Jackson and her daughter, Jamayah Huntley, raved about Detective Brad Ingram as the group settled in at a table after the frenzy.
“The community should be grateful to have such wonderful officers,” said Jackson. “I enjoyed getting to know the officers here. Officer Ingram made us feel comfortable. I appreciate his time, because I know all of the officers here have families of their own.”
Detective Ingram has seen some grisly crime scenes in his life, but his time with little Jamayah may have been one of the biggest shockers he’s seen in a while. Ingram said Jamayah used part of her gift card funds to purchase a thoughtful gift for her mother.
“I heard several kids say, ‘this is my police officer,’” said Williams. “Those new relationships sum up what this program is all about. And I’m so impressed with the businesses and citizens of Valdosta who chose to give to kids who wouldn’t have otherwise had such a nice Christmas. This program would fail if it wasn’t for this community’s support.”