OAK HILL — Christmas arrived a week earlier — and much brighter — for 106 underprivileged children in Fayette County, thanks to the Shop with a Cop program.

Oak Hill Police Chief Michael Whisman, who also heads the Fayette County Fraternal Order of Police, said he and other police and correctional officers from around the county, along with two magistrates, took the children to the Oak Hill Wal-Mart last Sunday for a day of Christmas shopping.

For many, that can be easily taken for granted. Not for these kids, he said. “The reason we do this is not just for fun. It’s for the kids who won’t get Christmas without it.”

The officers took the children in teams of 25 per hour — with each child paired with a cop — for a little over four hours. Whisman said donations from the public allowed the group to spend $11,000 on the kids — per capita, that’s more than double that of any other county FOP, he explained.

While his organization used to solicit contributions over the telephone each fall, Whisman said he switched to mail-in donations last year. The results have been tremendous, with 27,000 pieces of mail going out to area residents.

“We’ve had a really good response with that. People can mail their donations to us. That way, we don’t bother people on the phone and harass them. The general public knows this is a good program, and they know we spend the money on the kids. The response we get from the public continues to get greater and greater.”

Kids are chosen for the program based on input from parents, schools and the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

He added that virtually every town and community in the county was represented Sunday, with children from as far away as Boomer and Meadow Bridge participating. The only dilemma faced by officers was how to help the girls shop.

With only one female officer in the county, Whisman sought and received help from volunteers from the Fayetteville Junior Woman’s Club.

Now in its ninth year for Fayette County, the Shop with a Cop endeavor continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In its debut year, only 25 children participated.

For Whisman, Christmas is simply not what it should be without the annual event.

“To me and most of the officers, it really makes our Christmas to get out there and see these kids, who actually need it, get some Christmas. My Christmas wouldn’t be complete without getting out there and shopping with these kids.”

— E-mail:

mhill@register-herald.com

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