Washington safety officers give back during annual shopping event

Published 6:39 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Carts on carts, filled with bicycles, toys and other presents, rolled through the checkout lines at Walmart on Wednesday, each accompanied by a happy family and a safety officer from Washington Police Department or Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS.

Now in its sixth year, the “Shop with a Safety Officer” event, organized by the city’s emergency services, offered 21 youngsters the chance to fulfill their hearts desires this holiday season. Each child is selected based on family need, with recommendations coming from a variety of community partners.

“It gives the officers and firemen a chance to be a part of Christmas for those who cannot have Christmas for themselves,” Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford said. “With the help of some businesses and some individual donations we received, we were able to give a brief moment of happiness to the kids.”

Each year, emergency personnel take the time to go shopping with the children, and they also get to interact with them on a deeper level. Drakeford says that establishing this rapport with children lets them know that officers are friends and members of the community.

“Starting out with these young kids, we want to let them know we are here to help them and that we’re friends just like the friends they go to school with,” Drakeford said.

Reinforcing the idea of community policing, WPD Crime Prevention and Community Outreach Manager Kimberly Grimes says that it’s not just the kids who benefit from the program — safety officers look forward to the event throughout the year.

“We always want to bridge the gap that may be out there and to have a positive impact with the kids and their families as well,” Grimes said. “It’s about reaching out, and helping someone out who is having a hard time, and putting a smile on a child’s face.”

Financial support for Shop with a Safety Officer comes from a variety of sources in the community, including Walmart, First Bank, the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and a variety of private individuals. All told, this year’s event brought in $4,100, all of which will be used to brighten the Christmas season for local children.

“Actually, a lady that just saw us today gave us a $40 donation,” Drakeford said. “It’s a good thing that we’re doing.”

Anyone interested in supporting the WPD’s community outreach efforts can contact Grimes at 252-943-1715 or email kgrimes@washingtonnc.gov.