GREENFIELD — Long before dozens of children take to the aisles of the Greenfield Walmart for a holiday shopping spree, Amy West embarks on the delicate process of partnering kids with the right sheriff’s deputies. West helps organize the annual Shop with a Deputy event for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.
Before shopping begins, she spends time looking over the paperwork the kids’ parents provide. The applications often detail the children’s personalities, mannerisms and favorite things.
A shy boy might need a calm, fatherly- or grandfatherly-figure, while a rambunctious little girl might have the most fun with the officer who will chase her as she runs giggling through the clothing section. It’s a careful puzzle that’s always fun to complete, and when done properly, it ensures each of the children leaves the store with a twinkle in their eye, West said.
This weekend, about 65 of Hancock County’s children in need went shopping for Christmas presents with members of law enforcement, who picked up the tab. Saturday morning, the sheriff’s department took 25 kids shopping during its annual Shop with a Deputy event, while the Greenfield Police Department took 40 kids out for the annual Cops-4-Kids event Sunday.
In total, the agencies spend about $20,000 — money which was donated to both programs throughout the year. Each child was given $300 to spend on clothing, toys and whatever else their heart desired, organizers said.
The programs are December traditions for the departments, including Fortville Police Department, which will take children from the county’s northwest side to breakfast and shopping Saturday. It’s an opportunity for officers to interact with the youngest members of the community they work to protect; a way to give back to the community in a different way.
“This is what gets me in the Christmas spirit,” said Greenfield patrolman Danny Williams.
More than 50 officers from both departments, a handful of Indiana State Police troopers and many of their family members and friends volunteered time to help the kids shop.
The children helped by the program each year range from infants to teens, organizers said. They are selected to participate based on their family’s financial need.
Plopped in the seat of a shopping cart, Jayden Knight clutched a shopping list in his fist and looked up while jail officer Missy Wilcher wheeled him around. They collected onesies, diapers and wipes. A new toy perched in the seat next to him flashed and jingled, bringing a smile to the little one’s face.
Not far away, Sheriff’s Major Brad Burkhart was allowing his daughter to pick outfits for 2-year-old Kevahlin Perkins. Burkhart said he has fun shopping with the kids each year, but he doesn’t pretend to be an expert on fashion for girls, he said.
“If we went to Home Depot or Lowe’s, I’d be all about it,” he said with a laugh.
Williams said he participates in the city’s Cops-4-Kids program each year, and on Sunday morning, he met 6-year-old Jaimeson Kirby. They grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s with the other officers and youngsters before taking a ride down State Street in a police car, sirens blasting.
By the time they made it to Walmart, Jaimeson had swiped a trooper’s hat and pranced through the store with an excited gleam in his eye. He and Williams picked out dress clothes and new shoes before heading to the toy section to check out Iron Man action figures.
Emma Boden, also 6, said she was excited to bring home a toy horse and a pile of bright-colored sweaters she picked out with Greenfield officer Jill Hatke.
Hatke said she had fun spending time with the kids because it allowed her to spend time with them in a different atmosphere.
“It’s just a good way to give back to the community,” she said.
“This is what gets me in the Christmas spirit.”
Greenfield Police Department Patrolman Danny Williams