Children riding pink and blue bikes around Walmart on South Loop 288 on Monday morning weren’t just a reminder that Christmas is near.
They were also a sign that the 22nd annual Shop with a Cop had been there.
Officials said 135 children from Denton County were provided Christmas toys and clothing through this year’s Shop with a Cop program hosted by the Denton Police Officers Association.
“Seeing them riding with a grin from ear to ear makes me feel we are doing something right,” said Officer Danny Fletcher, president of the association and head organizer for this year’s program.
The children are typically screened and selected through Interfaith Ministries, an organization that provides short-term emergency financial assistance to residents in Denton County. This year, Denton Police Officers Association members were also able to nominate families to the program.
Police officers and civilian employees with the Denton Police Department then assist each of the children in picking out $60 worth of toys and $60 worth of clothes.
Donations for the event are accepted year-round and most begin coming in when the association starts soliciting on Nov. 1. Fletcher said donations mainly come from individual contributions, but some larger business donations assist them greatly.
“It all adds up to the cause and I am grateful to everyone who contributed,” he said. “Every penny donated is given back; we don’t take any of it.”
From neighborhood association contributions to an apartment complex bringing more than $700 cash to officers the day of the event, everyone in the community wants to help out, he said.
Because of a last-minute contribution from local businessman Jim McNatt, they were able to provide an enjoyable shopping experience to about 15 additional children this year and to get a jump start on next year’s fundraising.
This is Fletcher’s first year heading up the event, but he was a volunteer shopper for 15 years.
“I had no idea how much impact we had here in our community,” he said. “This is really what the Christmas season is all about.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reachedat 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.