Annual Shop With a Cop, Food for Families address local need

If it weren’t for the generosity of the law enforcement agencies in Baxter County and the Junior Auxiliary of Mountain Home, parents like Patricia Kirkwood of Mountain Home would have a hard time putting together a magical Christmas this year.

Kirkwood and her seventh-grade son, James Denning, were one of approximately 45 families that participated in this year’s annual Shop With a Cop and joint Food For Families program that took place Saturday at the Mountain Home Walmart.

Many parents like Kirkwood work full-time jobs, but find it hard to get ahead these days, let alone find funds to do some of the extras they feel they need to provide for their kids and families during the holidays.

“I still have problems making ends meet,” she said.

Kirkwood has two children of her own and is also caring for her grandson.

“This means a lot,” she said.

Shop With a Cop is national event sponsored locally by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 45 of Mountain Home, which consists of law enforcement members from police departments like Mountain Home, Cotter, Gassville and Norfork, along with deputies with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department.

For the last five years, the Junior Auxiliary of Mountain Home has been providing Christmas dinner staples to those families participating in Shop With a Cop and along with free gift wrapping for the presents that the children select.

According to Mountain Home Police Sgt. Bryan Corbett, vice president of FOB Lodge 45, approximately 95 Baxter County children were selected to participate in this year’s Shop With a Cop event.

Families started to arrive at Walmart around 8 a.m. and were paired up with area law enforcement and received a $100 gift card for each child, then shopping carts were grabbed and the purchasing ensued.

Corbett said the lodge received local donations from area businesses, individuals and social organizations, along with a $2,400 grant from Walmart that allowed the children to buy presents for themselves and their family members. He said the lodge then uses funds from its dues to match those funds.

He said area school counselors provided approximately 190 names of children in need and then they sorted through the names, selecting only those children who weren’t receiving presents through other area holiday programs.

“We can’t help everyone,” Corbett said sadly.

Once the young people selected their gifts, they had the option to have their presents wrapped, then families were treated to a free breakfast at McDonald’s.

Members of the Junior Auxiliary were busy loading up shopping carts out in the cold parking lot with traditional Christmas meal staples like ham, potatoes, margarine, stuffing, canned biscuits, green beans, milk, corn, pumpkin pie and of course dried onions for green bean casserole.

Auxiliary member and Food for Families chairwoman Emily Jordan said the two entities have been partnering together for the last five years.

Jordan, a fourth-grade literacy and social studies teacher at Mountain Home’s Hackler Intermediate School, said she was pleased as to how smoothly the joint operation went.

“It was fabulous,” Jordan reported. “All of our families showed up, except for one and one (food) basket had to be delivered by an officer, but other than that it was really great.”

Carmen Leahy and her 12-year-old daughter Saide Miller were paired with first-time participant, Deputy Selena Harris of the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department.

Harris serves as a school resource officer at the Cotter School District, so she’s used to working with young people every day.

The three ladies spent nearly an hour going through the toy, electronics and clothing isles looking for some fun, yet practical items for Miller.

“This has been such a blessing,” Leahy said of Shop With a Cop and Food for Families.

Back in October, Miller was taken to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock to have a portion of her lung removed in order to remove a cyst. Leahy said she and her husband were not able to work during that time, and while they are in the process of getting caught up on their bills, getting presents for Saide and their 17-year-old son Orion would be tough this year without help.

Harris said she had a blast.

“I think I’m enjoying this more than the kids,” Harris said. “My favorite thing about being an SRO is that I love working with the kids. This is just icing on the cake.”

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