By BONNIE BAILEY
The Jonesborough Department of Public Safety will make the holidays a little merrier for some area children on Wednesday, Dec. 13, with their annual Shop with a Cop program.
Shop with a Cop pairs children in need — selected for the program by their school guidance counselors and teachers — with an officer, firefighter, or other first responder, and the pair enjoy a pizza party and a shopping spree together.
This year, the pizza party will begin at 6 p.m. at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. Afterward, the children will be taken on tour buses, escorted by police cars and firetrucks, to the Walmart on W. Market Street. The participating children, accompanied by their Shop with a Cop partner, will each receive $150 to spend on items of their choice.
“It’s a humbling experience for us, to be able to see what these children pick out … to see how selfless they can be when they get the opportunity to go on a little shopping spree,” Maj. Jamie Aistrop, the Shop with a Cop organizer, said.
In addition to the shopping spree, gifts are also provided, unbeknownst to the children, to be unwrapped on Christmas morning. Gifts are provided for siblings of participating children to open on Christmas morning as well.
According to Aistrop, the program is designed not only to provide a good Christmas for families who might not have had one otherwise, but also to foster a relationship between children in the community and first responders.
The majority of the time when participating children have interacted with police officers or firefighters, it’s been in a negative tone, and this event offers the opportunity to change that, he said.
“Most of these children are coming from lower income families that can’t provide the kind of Christmas that they want to for their kids,” Aistrop said. “The main focus of it for us is to have an opportunity to spend time with them in a positive setting.”
Currently, 74 children are set to participate on Dec. 13, and to ensure each child has a Shop with a Cop partner, several other county fire and police departments will assist with the program, Aistrop said.
To date, about $16,000 has been raised for the Shop with a Cop event, and there’s still an opportunity to donate.
“We’d like to reach $20,000,” Aistrop said. “We’re actually shopping all the way up until a few hours before the event.”
The best way to donate, Aistrop said, is to stop by the Jonesborough Town Hall. A donation receipt can be provided.
Jonesborough Town Hall is located at 123 Boone Street. For more information, call (423) 753-1053.