FORSYTH — Six-year-old Brylen Flournoy suddenly faced one of those tense fashion moments that can crop up in any young man's life: Do I go with action hero-themed underwear for the ultimate back to school chic?
Brylen, shopping the Kohl's store in Forsyth's Hickory Point Mall, in the end opted for just plain shorts, perhaps reflecting a growing sense of maturity. But it's always nice to have options and, thanks to the Decatur Police “Shop with a Cop” back-to-school program, more than 80 kids aged from kindergarten through eighth grade got to arrest their favorite style choices.
The event is organized by the Decatur Police Benevolent Association, comprised of active duty officers and retirees. The association reaches out to the community to do good works and show people another side of the men and women who work in law enforcement. Its oldest community outreach program is the Christmas Shop with a Cop event that now partners with Target to buy gifts for families in need and dates back some 20 years.
The back-to-school version is now in its fourth year and came to be after cops spotted another occasion that could benefit from the long arm of the law reaching out with a helping hand. Business and community donations raise the roughly $9,000 cost that pays for each child to receive $100 worth of new clothes and shoes. A team of 30 officers, dispatchers and other helpers accompany the families who presented themselves in two shifts at Kohl's at 9 a.m and 10:15 am to do their shopping in private.
The store helps the shopping dollars go further with a healthy discount and the police also provide drinks and donuts as well as backpacks donated by the Decatur YMCA. Names of deserving families are forwarded in advance by schools and organizations like the Decatur Boys & Girls Club.
Sgt. Scott Rosenbery, president of the Decatur Police Benevolent Association, said it's a win-win for everyone: “The kids get some high-quality clothing and it is good for the officers and the kids to start interacting and get to know each other,” he said. “It's just a good thing overall.”
Sgt. Toby Williams with the street crimes narcotics unit was handling the shopping interaction with Brylen, ably assisted by Williams' own 8-year-old son, Aiden. As they marched on from the underwear to investigate other clothing choices, Sgt. Williams was feeling relaxed. “Here, you see everyone on a personal level, you are not dealing with people in their most extreme times,” he said, contrasting the shopping experience with his regular job.
“This is really nice.”