Needing to raise $50,000 to meet the needs of the program, a silent auction, raffle drawing for a $500 cash prize and children’s activities will be among the offerings from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wal-Mart.
“We’re just now getting into the kickoff phase of the fundraising. We’ve had a great response for far,” Emerson Police Chief Stan Bradley said. “That’s kind of the kickoff leading up to the Nov. 2 that we’re having in the Wal-Mart parking lot, which is going to be a silent auction and kind of a yard sale kind of thing. We’re looking for donations for that if anybody wants to donate anything that we could sell; we would greatly appreciate it and we want people, of course, to come out and shop that day and buy the items and bid on the auctions that we’re going to have out there.”
Organizers said the name change for 2013 stemmed from recognizing each agency taking part, as well as the increase in volunteer needs.
“It started out we had six kids, I think, and then it went to 60-something, 90-something. ... Last year it was 318 kids and ... we had a great response from the law enforcement community, but with 318 kids, we just didn’t have 318 officers to help shop,” Bradley said. “... Now it’s where it’s growing to the community. We just figured the next step was to include all of public safety, so we’ve invited the county and city fire departments, the EMS to participate along with all the other, of course, law enforcement agencies that have participated in the past. Obviously, we can’t call it Shop with a Cop when there are firefighters and EMTs, because they wouldn’t like that. So now it’s Shop with a Hero.
“We thought hero was an appropriate name being that there’s some folks out there that put their lives on the line every day, so that’s where the name came from.”
Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said logistics are on the areas that limit the program to a roughly 300-child cutoff.
“That’s one of the things we didn’t think about when we moved it from Emerson to the whole county is that, when we do that, we are going to have three times more kids. Obviously, with that many more kids, you need that many more officers,” he said. “... Each child is paired up with an officer and we need at least that many volunteer officers. ... Logistics-wise, if you have that many people, you pair up a child with a parent and an officer, public safety personnel, ... that’s 900 people in Wal-Mart at the same time.”
The annual Shop With A Hero day — each child receives $150 to spend, with $100 going toward clothing — descends on Wal-Mart Dec. 14 following a 9 a.m. catered breakfast at the Clarence Brown Conference Center. Because of the financial need, the program is accepting monetary donations at any public safety agency in the county.
“This is a great program and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the kids, and our lifeblood is the donations from the community of the people that are blessed enough to be able to do so. We would encourage people to get involved and help us with the donations,” Bradley said. “And, if they can’t do that, if they could donate some items for the fundraising, the fundraiser on [Nov. 2], they can do that at any of their local law enforcement agencies or the fire department or anything like that. Just tell them it’s for the Shop with a Hero program and just have them get in touch with myself or Jonathan Rogers at the sheriff’s department, and we’ll take care of them.”
For Rogers, the participants’ reaction makes taking part worth every moment.
“I’ve participated in it for four years, and it really makes you feel good cause these kids are from an environment where they appreciate things that maybe kids in other environments take for granted, like the clothes. ... On top of that, they’re shopping with a person that they are not normally around or that they don’t see in the same environment. They’re seeing an officer that’s helping them one-on-one, purchasing stuff,” he said. “I know from being around the bosses that are there — these kids don’t care if you are a captain or they don’t care if you are the sheriff, they don’t care if you are a jail deputy. All they care is you’ve got a badge and a gun and a police car. To them you’re a hero; you’re somebody. It makes a big impression on them to be able to talk to them. They learn your name and they feel like they’ve got a friend they can trust, which is what we want.”
“The two things that you get out of this are there are children out there in our community, the community of Bartow County, Cartersville area that absolutely, I’ve seen in this program, that would not have had Christmas without us,” he said. “... These are some of the kids that are coming to schools with hand-me-down shoes and hand-me-down clothes that have holes in them. We’re able to help those kids out by getting them some good clothing and new shoes. It helps them with some really needed items, but it also creates a bond between these kids that are coming up in some of these lower income families that they can see us in a different light.”
For more information, visit www.shopwithahero.net. Donations are accepted during normal business hours at any county or municipal public safety agency; checks may be made out to Shop With A Hero.