If you were shopping at the LaBelle Wal-Mart on Saturday, December 16, the Spirit of Christmas was in the air and on the faces of dozens of children. You may have seen several parked Deputies vehicles, and an Armored Car Limo Bus parked outside the Garden Center entrance. Hendry County Sheriff’s Deputies, paired with 27 children in need for the Second Annual “Shop with a Cop” event at the LaBelle Wal-Mart on Saturday, December 16, 2017.
Sergeant Kristi Schott, Coordinator of “Shop with a Cop” for the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, said “the idea was pitched last year and we recognized the need for the event in Hendry County. Hendry County Sheriff’s Office facilitates ‘Shop with a Cop’ on both the east and west side of the county, one in Clewiston and one in LaBelle. This year the program included 52 students from LaBelle and Clewiston.”
The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Unit along with Hendry County School Guidance Counselors identified families of elementary and middle school age students that are in need. The families of the children chosen to participate in the event may be experiencing financial issues. Each student receives a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to buy items for themselves or gifts others. The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office received a community grant from Wal-Mart to provide the students with the gift cards.
The students selected to participate this year were provided a ride to Wal-Mart in an Armored Car Limo Bus courteous of Clean Ride Limo of Alva with a full escort by Deputies. “The students are treated like stars and enjoy getting to ride in the limo,” said Sergeant Schott.
Once students arrived at Wal-Mart they were paired up with a Deputy to accompany them on a very special shopping experience. While students waited for their turn to “Shop with a Cop” they played bingo for prizes, played card games, or colored pictures. Santa also surprised students, with a visit and photo opportunity. Teachers from area Hendry County Schools and LMS’ Voices Unidas Club, were available to make sure that the gifts students purchased were wrapped and ready to put under the tree.
Afterwards students boarded the limo bus and were escorted by Hendry County Deputies, lights and sirens to McDonalds, compliments of Wal-Mart, Nisbet Enterprises, where they each enjoyed a free lunch.
Schott went on to describe that during the LaBelle event as well as the event in Clewiston, held, December 9, many people provided cash donations to deputies after being told about the effort. Schott went on to say, “A gentleman at the Clewiston event saw a little girl looking at a bike so he purchased it for her.” “This week, one of the managers at the LaBelle Wal-Mart bought two students bicycles after noticing that both boys, brothers, purchased food for the family”.
“We are so pleased with the response we receive from the schools and communities. It really does warm your heart and remind us of the joys of Christmas when you see that same joy on the faces of children,” said Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden. Whidden went on to say, “I also believe it teaches the youth the importance of giving. For us as an agency, it provides us with the opportunity to interact with the children, in a positive environment.”
“It isn’t just one person from the Sheriff’s Office that organizes it,” said Sergeant Scott. Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation make this possible each year through the generous community grants they offer. The employees and managers are wonderful. They are generous and seem to have just as much fun as the kids. Wal-Mart, Nisbet Enterprises has provided lunch to the students for the last two years and Clean Ride Limo is also more than happy to contribute by providing the Limo rides to and from the event.
“We want to again offer a very special thank you to Wal-Mart, Nisbet Enterprises, Clean Ride Limo, and ‘Pete’ the chauffer, Hendry County School Board, its teachers and staff, students and parents for participating in this year’s ‘Shop with a Cop’. My deputies and I are very honored to once again host this event,” said Sheriff Whidden.