Police bring Christmas to local youths

CONYERS -- Local law enforcement will become holiday shopping pals to underprivileged Rockdale County youths as it sets out to bring Christmas gifts to children of families facing financial hardship this holiday season.

Conyers Police Department officers will walk hand and hand through the aisles of Wal-Mart with local needy children as part of CPD's Shop with a Cop event at 8 a.m. Dec. 19.

The children, aged three and 12, will be given a gift card, the opportunity to pick out a toy and stroll through the store with their assigned CPD officer.

Conyers Wal-Mart Supercenter has partnered with CPD to sponsor the free shopping event.

All the Saturday morning shopping will kick off with a complimentary breakfast, where the children will be introduced to their assigned officer and enjoy a special visit from jolly old St. Nick. Shopping will conclude with a Happy Meal lunch, sponsored by McDonalds, with the child and officer, and "just make it an all-day event for them, a real special thing," according to Conyers Wal-Mart asset protection coordinator Dawn Dyer.

"For us, as a corporation, we do always strive to give back to the community," Dyer said. "We have a very unique relationship with the officers. They're always here for us, regardless what our need would be. So we were happy to partner with them and help them any way we could."

The shopping doubles as a chance for children to cultivate positive experiences with law enforcement, Police Chief David Cathcart said.

"Officers interact with children who may not have had a positive encounter with law enforcement up until now," Cathcart said in a press release. "The partnership between CPD and Wal-Mart makes sure that the children are afforded a more positive holiday experience."

The charity event made its debut last year, where CPD made sure 32 needy children had Christmas gifts.

Dyer added how "especially tough," this year has been for many families and said the local retailer wanted to help "make it a very happy holiday for the kids."

"One of the lightest moments, for me, to see was when the officers actually pulled money out their pockets to help," Dyer said.

Needy children in the program are referred through social agencies, family agencies and several other organizations. Some of the shopping money is based on donations.

For more information, call 770-483-6600.