COVID-19 may be the cause for many event cancellations this year, but it isn’t canceling holiday spirit in Madison County. The Madison County Sheriff’s Department announced on Facebook last Friday their annual Christmas with a Cop event would still be held this year with modifications to keep those involved more safe.
Capt. Jimmy Patton, Madison County Sheriff’s Department public informations officer, said safety measures include requiring masks for officers and kids, enforcing social distancing and reducing the number of people involved. He said this year only 10 children will be shopping with an officer, which is around half of the number they had last year.
This year marks the fourth year Madison County has hosted Christmas with a Cop. Sheriff Michael Moore started this event when he was elected into office, and it has continued under him since.
“We’ve gotten great support from the community,” said Patton. “In fact, we had enough donations to cover, I think we had almost 20 kids last year, and we were able to cover the $250 per child and actually had money leftover in that account to go toward this year’s along with what we receive this year for donations.”
Can I Be Involved?
The Madison County Sheriff’s Department started accepting donations Nov. 9 and will continue to take them until Dec. 11, the day before the actual shopping event. Money can be donated by mail or in person, said Patton. A Christmas tree stands in the foyer of the sheriff’s department and as a thank you to those who donate, an ornament with your name is placed on the tree.
“Believe it or not, we actually have to remind [the kids], when they go they get to buy stuff for like their brothers and sisters and stuff like that too, and a lot of times we have to remind them to buy stuff for themselves,” said Sgt. Brandon Moss, who has shopped with a child every year so far.
First-time shopper and School Resource Officer at Hull-Sanford Elementary, Officer Daniel Eubanks said he’s excited to give back to the kids in the community and help them have a special holiday season they may not otherwise have.
“I’ve got a great bond with all my kids here,” said Eubanks. “I try to bridge that gap between you know the way some of the people around here portray cops; I want to show them ‘hey we’re just humans too, and we like to go and have fun and not be serious all the time.’”
Who Gets to Shop?
Madison County school counselors use their knowledge of the children at their school to nominate those who get to shop with a cop. Tracy Hebenton, Comer Elementary School counselor, said applications to be filled out by a guardian are sent home with kids who would benefit the most from this event. Hebenton said she noticed a bigger need in the community this year because of parents losing their jobs and being unable to find work in the midst of the coronavirus.
“We have families that receive weekend food bags, kids that are on our McKinney-Vento list, you know any kids that I know of that are having challenges at home or parents are struggling, I try to look at them and then also see what else might be going on,” said Hebenton.
Every year, the kids have been excited about being able to shop with an officer and it seems to mean a lot to them, said Hebenton.
Maddie McQueen is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia.
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