FORSYTH — Back-to-school shopping can actually be a fun experience when you have a police escort.
A total of 90 kids, aged from Pre-K through eighth grade and accompanied by their families, hit Kohl’s store in the Hickory Point Mall Sunday in two waves, 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Each child shopper was matched with a Decatur police officer armed with $100 per child to spend on back-to-school clothing and, from shoes to underwear, law enforcement covered it all.
“I enjoy it, this is fun,” said Detective Sgt. Steve Carroll, ably assisted by sons Stone, 17, and Storm, 14, as he escorted Hinton family members Jenia, 13, and Julian, 12, who were all sibling smiles in the united search for what they needed.
“I think this is truly a blessing,” said their mother, Sandria Hinton, 50, who lives in Decatur. “It’s a very good thing to do for the community.”
Hinton said back-to-school time meant an extra strain on already hard-pressed family budgets and a helping hand from the long arm of the law was greatly appreciated. But asked if the event showed police officers in a different, kinder light, Hinton replied: “I’ve never known them in any other way.”
The “Shop with a Cop” back-to-school program is in its fifth year and follows on from the success of the Christmas Shop with a Cop, which buys gifts for families in need and dates back more than 20 years. Both events are organized by the Decatur Police Benevolent and Protective Association Unit 39, a police union that represents both active and retired officers.
Community fundraising and donations pay for the Shop with a Cop costs, which work out at about $9,000 for each event. Sunday’s back to school shoppers also received backpacks care of the YMCA along with doughnuts and drinks.
“The community has always been very supportive of us,” said Sgt. Scott Rosenbery, the PB&PA Unit 39 president. “And it’s because of that support we’ve been able to utilize the money we’ve brought in through donations from companies and individuals to pay for this back to school program in August.”
Rosenbery said officers knew the need was out there and got their leads on which students to help by seeking recommendations from city schools and organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Decatur.
“We never have a problem finding families that need some help,” he added.