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Shop With A Cop celebrates seven years of giving

Some area children got more than expected under the Christmas tree this year, thanks to the leadership of the Jonesborough Department of Public Safety and with the help of several other police and fire departments across the region.
For seven years, these groups have joined forces as volunteers to assist more than 100 children in the area each year by making Christmas a lot brighter for themselves and their families.
On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center became a fun-filled arena where children spent the evening with police officers and firefighters from across the region, along with public safety volunteers that assist with the event.
The children are preselected based on income and their needs by the local school system and Shop With A Cop & Firefighter’s organizer, Jonesborough Police Major Natalie Hilton.
“The best way for us to be able to determine needs is by contacting the local school system,” Hilton said. “The teachers and guidance counselors are instrumental in determining which kids are in need and provide us with a list of who they recommend each year.”
Children and their siblings will also find special gifts at home from Santa Claus on Christmas Day. These items came from donations to the St. Nick Nights in Downtown Jonesborough, Shop with A Cop & Fire Fighter Angel Trees that are placed in various locations throughout the immediate area, as well as items donated to the police and fire departments. Parents were given these gifts secretly after dropping their child off for the program that evening.
It gives the parents relief that there are people willing to help them when they are struggling. And, “It makes the holidays a little more enjoyable for the parents, knowing that Santa will be coming to their house on Christmas,” Hilton said.
The fun began with a pizza party followed by a meet and greet, with the area’s public service agencies including Jonesborough Police and Fire, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Johnson City Police, Tusculum Police, Embreeville Fire, Elizabethton and Carter County and area Constables.
After dinner, the children were treated like celebrities as they rode in limos from F and L Limo & Livery to the Wal-Mart located on West Market Street to pick out the most coveted items from their Christmas want and wish lists.
“There is nothing like Christmas through the eyes of a child. The magic of Christmas is something that everyone should look forward to, and no child should have to wonder if Santa will make it to their house this year,” Hilton said. “Shop with a Cop & Firefighter gives, not just the child, but the police and firemen a night to remember.”
The program takes support from the entire community and is completely donation based.
“Whether it is throwing loose change into a boot, sending a donation or picking a child’s name off the angel tree, Christmas is about giving, taking care of one another and remembering Jesus’ birth and what He has done for us,” Hilton said.
Upon arrival to the event, the children were partnered up with an officer or firefighter and were acquainted over pizza donated by area businesses including Papa Johns, Rocky’s, Jonesborough Pizza Parlor, Luke’s Pizza, Pizza Plus, The Black Olive and Little Caesars.
“When it comes time to get in the limos to go shopping, many of the kids have already attached themselves to their officer and want to stay with them by riding in their car,” Hilton said. “This program shows the kids that we are here to help, and are all kids at heart.”
While the children checked items off their Christmas shopping lists, parents and guardians picked up donated and wrapped gifts including clothing, toys and food that were ready to be placed under the tree on Christmas.
After shopping, a group of volunteers were assembled to wrap the children’s new treasures before they are picked up by their parent or guardian.
The shopping lists included items children are in need of such as clothing sizes and favorite toys. Major Hilton and a group of volunteers spent the days leading up to Shop With A Cop & Firefighter dividing the donations among the list of children and to be picked up that evening.
“The wish lists always consist of toys.
“But, many of the kids headed to the food section or wanted to buy something for their parents first,” Hilton said.
Planning for the 2016 is already under way, as it takes Hilton and the volunteers a year to prepare and collect donations for the event that makes Christmas a reality. A fundraiser is held each October at Jonesborough’s Pizza Plus, and numerous donations from people and businesses across the surrounding area are collected year-round. With each donation, a tax donation receipt is returned.
Donations are already being accepted for next year’s Shop With A Cop & Firefighter program. Donations can be dropped off at Town Hall or Jonesborough Public Safety Department located at 123 Boone Street.
“The event volunteers come from Kiwanis Club of Jonesborough, Cross Point Church of Jonesborough, David Crockett High School Civinettes, employees from the Town of Jonesborough and other community members. There are many ways the community can help or get involved such as donating money, providing gifts or volunteering,” Hilton said. “We appreciate the continued support from the community and businesses.”
For more information about Jonesborough’s Shop With A Cop & Firefighter program, contact Major Natalie Hilton at 423-753-1045