Sponsored by the Altavista Police Department (APD), Shop with a Cop made its annual trip to Walmart on December 21. Fifty-five children were each given $125 to shop, and a law enforcement officer was paired with each child to help keep track of the money and choices made about purchases. APD Chief Tommy Merricks heads up the program. As children were beginning to arrive for the event, Chief Merricks said, “I’m happy. This is one of my favorite times of the year.”
Bishop Wes Witcher, Jr., Senior Pastor of the First Church of Jesus here in Altavista, is on the committee that helps to select the children who will be given money to spend. Children are selected based on poverty and also based on how spending time with a police officer might be particularly helpful in their lives. Of Chief Merricks, Bishop Witcher said, “We’re blessed to have him.”
Chief Merricks recruited officers eager to volunteer to help children. Officers were recruited not only from the APD, but for example also from among the Conservation Police, ABC Agents, the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Police. Campbell County Sheriff-Elect Whit Clark, one of the volunteers, said, “When Chief Merricks called me, immediately I said I’d love to be involved. Shop with a Cop gives me the opportunity to meet children, talk with them, and wish them a Merry Christmas. The APD does a tremendous job with outreach to the public.” Clark begins his term as Sheriff on January 1.
Chief Merricks’ spouse Patricia Merricks volunteers to assist with registering the children. She said her favorite thing about Shop with a Cop is “seeing the kids’ faces as they come out of the store with the stuff that’s theirs.”
Alona R., one of the children selected, said, “I’m happy to be here.” She was paired with APD Officer Tosh. She is a good student and said, “I like all the subjects in school.” At the event’s conclusion, Officer Tosh said, “It was a good shopping trip. We had fun. Alona’s got everything she wanted and needed.”
Officer S.D. Karr said the small child paired with him asked right away, “Do you kill bad guys?” Officer Karr replied, “No. It’s good to keep the community safe. We just put those bad guys away. We don’t kill them.”
Officer Gary Penn, who also volunteered, will become Sergeant of Community Relations and Crime Prevention for Campbell County on January 1. He was paired with a young boy named Daniel, whose father accompanied him, too. Daniel said, “I got chosen for Shop with a Cop. It is really fun. I’m getting to spend time with a cop. I’m buying some new clothes.” Daniel’s father said, “It’s a wonderful thing.” Daniel chose one toy for himself and he then started selecting gifts for his family members.
Officer Penn stated, “One good thing I like about the area is that law enforcement is always willing to come together to help each other out. So many children and law enforcement officers are here today. I see family. All these agencies put together. Our families are put here for a cause. This is where it starts. What do you see here? It is just love.”