The Fraternal Order of Police’s Shop with a Cop program is making a move.
While the program will continue to help underprivileged children buy Christmas presents during the holidays, now Shop with a Cop is also helping reward members of the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County who go above and beyond in serving family and the community.
FOP Bud Allison Memorial Chapter president Brett Hall, a Maryville police officer, said the FOP was looking for ways to expand and make a difference in the community, particularly among children and youth.
“Our greatest resource is our kids. Through being a police officer and working in the schools and helping with Boys and Girls Club, I see how what a good job they do with their members,” Hall said.
Hall said one of the things the club does is select a “Member of the Month” at both the Eagleton and Parkside locations.
Hall asked about the program and what the members have to do to win the honors. “They have to demonstrate leadership, life skills, responsibility or help other people. I thought that was a wonderful thing,” he said.
Hall said he and others in the FOP were considering how they could make more of a difference in children’s lives in the community. He suggested making Shop with a Cop a monthly event to reward the Boys and Girls Club members of the month, and the FOP membership supported the idea.
“We want to show our support for these young people who are being leaders in the community and stepping up,” he said. “You hear so much of the negative with what’s going on with kids, and we wanted to let them know, as police officers, this is a positive interaction we want to have. It’s showing their leadership and how it will be contagious to other people.
“We met with the director of the Boys and Girls Club and asked if this would be possible. They were very excited and said this would give more incentive to the kids for them to earn the award,” Hall said.
Hall said the F.O.P. gets a $50 gift card for each member and then meets with him or her to help shop at Wal-Mart in Alcoa the first of each month.
“We spend time with them and let them do a little shopping for their reward,” he said. “Last month was our first time. It was a neat experience. The first thing both of them did was to go to the jewelry counter and picked out Valentine’s presents for their moms.”
Hall said the community support for Shop with a Cop allows the F.O.P. to have the extra funds to have monthly shopping trips for members of the month at the Boys and Girls Club. One such event that raises funds for Shop with a Cop is the SlimFest community concert each summer.
“Even in rough financial times people are putting kids first,” he said. “We’re using money already raised through last year’s SlimFest and through personal donations.”
Jarrod Millsaps, Shop with a Cop coordinator, said the F.O.P. wanted the program to expand. “We wanted something that would carry that program all year long, and we wanted to recognize kids,” he said. “What better way than to partner with the Boys and Girls Club.”
Eagleton Boys and Girls Club facility director Dean Deatherage said working with the F.O.P. through the Shop with a Cop program is good for his club.
“We’re proud of all our members,” Deatherage said. “For the ones who go that extra mile, this is something we can give them that is extra special to reward them. It means a lot to them.”
Gaige Swanner won for the Eagleton club.
Gaige is 11 years old and is in fifth grade at Eagleton Elementary School. Gaige loves being with his friends and having fun. He is a good listener and takes care of other members in his group, Deathrage said.
Francis Ayl won for the Parkside club.
Francis is 13 years old and attends Maryville Intermediate School. He participates in all club activities and does well in school. Francis has also started to be a mentor to some of the younger members, Deathrage said.