Along with the holiday season comes community efforts to help those in need, especially children. On Saturday, Dec. 8, Thayer Wal-Mart will host its annual 'Shop with a Cop' event.
'Shop with a Cop' is a program designed for children 12 and under, from struggling families. Thayer Police Chief, David Bailey said, "The amount of children chosen for the program is based on how much money has been raised." Funding for 'Shop with a Cop' consists of donations from businesses and grant money. "This year, the police department has been selling tickets for a gun raffle which will end later this week. It has been a rough year, economically as far as donations are concerned," Bailey said.
Anyone can go by the Thayer Police Department to make a donation for the program. "If they can't come to us, we'll come to them. We appreciate any help we can get. It goes for a good cause, for the kids," Bailey said.
The children are chosen based on an application, which can be filled out at the police station. Criteria such as annual income and other assistance received must be included on the applications in order to determine the families who are in greatest need of assistance. Bailey said, "Usually, we have around 70 children apply and, most of the time, almost all applicants are accepted."
Division of Family Services usually comes in and checks the application list to make sure that the child/family is not already accepted into another assistance program, such as the Angel Tree project. One child is allowed to participate in 'Shop with a Cop' three times.
Thayer Wal-Mart manager, Jason Greer said, "We have limited grant money, so we make sure it goes to the children of the community. 'Shop with a Cop' is for Oregon County and Mammoth Spring area children. When I got involved, five or six years ago, we had approximately 150 kids participating in the event. Over the years, Ozark Action has started the Angel Tree, which has reduced the numbers a little."
Though crowded and congested, it will be business as usual for Thayer Wal-Mart on Dec. 8. "Kids start lining up around 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. We have a lot of volunteers that come out to help. Youth Summit programs from the area schools have students come in to help bag and carry out. My kids have helped us every year," Greer said.
Police officers take the kids through the store without their parents. This really gives the children the opportunity to pick out what they want. The volunteers take the children to meet their parents after they have finished shopping. The volunteers also make special markings on receipts so the toys cannot be returned.
"The Shop with a Cop is a great program to help children whose parents may not be able to afford new things for them. It is very impactful when you see a child so excited over a bicycle. Makes you realize that people are doing things for the right reasons, and there are people who really do appreciate it," Greer said.
Applications for 'Shop with a Cop' can be filled out until Dec. 4 at the Thayer Police Station.