Lights flashed and sirens blared early on the morning of Dec. 8 as cruisers from area law enforcement agencies arrived at Wal-Mart in Alcoa.
They weren’t in hot pursuit of a suspect, but they were on a mission: Shop With a Cop 2007.
Shop With a Cop was organized by the Bud Allison Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Jarrod Millsaps with the Blount County Sheriff Office said about $15,000 was spent, buying gifts for 59 children, ages 6 to 10 years old.
The officers and volunteers pushed buggies and talked with the youngsters while they shopped. Volunteers then wrapped the presents for the children to take home.
“I like to come out and help out and help the kids,” 14-year-old Cody Price said.
Phillip Russell, 14, said, “I like helping and seeing the faces of the kids.”
Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp said he and Blount County Chief Deputy Ron Dunn started the program locally about 20 years ago when they learned of an 8-year-old boy whose mother had died. “We decided to take the boy Christmas. We raised $50 to $60 and did that. That’s how it started,” Crisp said.
Blount County Sheriff’s deputy Allen Russell and his wife, Diane, enjoyed Shop With a Cop. “You don’t get into the Christmas season until you see the kids getting into it,” Diane Russell said.
Walland Elementary School teacher Saundra Wilson said children are generous. “A lot of times they buy things for everyone else and one thing for themselves.”
Steve Stilts and wife, Donna, were on hand to help with the shopping. The couple helped raise funds for Shop With a Cop through his summer concert and party called SlimFest. “It makes me want to work even harder for SlimFest,” said Steve Stilts.
Chad Fielden, 7, said he was enjoying the morning. “I was so excited. I felt like my head was going to blow up,” he said.
Joe Gallagher of Louisville volunteered with the youngsters. “I loved it,” he said, adding that the program goes beyond giving presents, he said. “It establishes good relationships with police officers.”
Officers from Maryville and Alcoa police departments, deputies from Blount County Sheriff’s Office and volunteers from other agencies and the community participated in the event.