30 children given $150 each leads to priceless outreach
Nine-year-old Myadrian Myers loved his new blue coat.
Kaya, 4, and Eve Halsey, 3, took smiled spins through the Dunn-Erwin Walmart on twin pink, white and blue bicycles.
They were three of the 30 children treated to “Shop-with-a-Cop” on Tuesday morning thanks to a growing community partnership between a local church and law enforcement.
Gospel Tabernacle Church continued its expanded outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic by joining forces with the Dunn and Erwin police departments to make this year’s “Shop-with-a-Cop” initiative the biggest yet.
“We knew that the police department would know where the real needs are,” Pastor Randy Hill said. “Our church has always done some sort of outreach for Thanksgiving and Christmas but we wanted to make sure we touched people who really needed it. We knew the police department would know better than we would.”
Dunn Police Department worked with Gospel Tabernacle on a food box distribution last month where area families received a large amount of items in time for Thanksgiving. The church approached the police about the idea for similar reasons, Hill said, as the intent was to reach people in need. During the food box drive, talks about the “Shop-with-a-Cop” program came up and the partnership found its newest directive.
“I give them total credit for the efforts they make,” said Dunn interim police Chief Clark White. “Without them, it would’ve been almost possible to pull this off, or at least a whole lot harder.”
Dunn Police Department’s community enhancement team went to work assembling names and decided to take the process a step farther by including Erwin Police Department in the program.
“We partnered with Erwin Police Department so we could serve both communities,” White said. “We’re trying really hard. It’s a group effort and everybody puts out 100% to make it happen. Without the community’s support we could not do it.”
Once the church committed to the program, Hill said the money took care of itself.
“We knew this would be needed,” said Hill. “We presented it to the church and said if you would like to help and the church did. We were able to raise their limit a little bit from what they did last year to give them a little bit more money to spend.”
Fundraising efforts helped increase the number of children taking part in the program from 11 last year to 30 on Tuesday with a $150 spending limit each.
“I really think that’s the reason people responded to it the way that they did,” White said. “The money just flowed into it. Once we put the information out there that the need was there, the money just came in. It was well-received and successful.”
Erwin Police Department appreciated the chance to participate in this year’s rendition and Chief Jonathan Johnson said he wants to grow the program moving forward.
“It was fantastic getting the chance to interact with everyone and seeing these kids’ eyes light up,” Johnson said. “It’s always good to have positives, especially with everything that’s been going on.”
Lt. Cary Jackson of the Dunn Police Department said she’s often touched by the amount of children who shop for others in their families instead of themselves.
“You have to encourage them, ‘Come on, let’s find something for you. This is a special day for you,’” Jackson said.
Officers reminded the little shoppers of that again this year as they smiled over toys and coats and gloves.
“I’m excited about working with them for years to come. Maybe we can work together and make it even bigger next year. I’d like to get this thing to grow,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, there are families in the community that are less fortunate. We’re ready to do it again. I think it’s a great thing and brings everybody together.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 30 children were broken up into smaller groups shopping at three different times in the store.
Gospel Tabernacle also worked with the Dunn Police Athletic & Activities League to provide a family meal at PAL’s new headquarters after the shopping spree.
-Dunn Daily Record