photos by TANIAH TUDOR
Santa gives a candy cane to 1-year-old JeynaFaith Rozell during the Mulberry Shop With A Cop at the Alma Walmart on Saturday. JeynaFaith was shopping with her mom, Jessica Jennings of Mulberry.
Ciara Stringer buys diapers and other necessities for her newborn daughter, 2-month-old Lakelyn Miller.
Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory helps 4-year-old Cayden Steffen pick out some toys for Christmas. Cayden was shopping with his grandmother, Tammy Wanamaker.
Patrolman Chuck Thomas and Lt. Shawn Taylor with the Mulberry Police Department volunteered to help families shop for Christmas presents Saturday.
Mulberry police made Christmas a little better this year for 75 area kids.
Mulberry Police Department held its annual Shop With A Cop at the Alma Walmart on Saturday, helping to purchase $100 worth of clothing and toys for each of the kids signed up to participate.
Officers and other city residents raise the money throughout the year through events such as the Polar Plunge, in which volunteers pledge to jump into the freezing winter water at Bluff Hole for donations.
This year, MPD was able to provide Christmas to even more Mulberry kids than expected, said Police Chief Shannon Gregory.
“We raised so much money, we upped the number of kids we’re helping,” Gregory said. “People just gave generously this year.”
Parents, grandparents and volunteers including Mulberry city residents and police officers help the kids shop for necessities and toys.
Toby Rogers was shopping with his son and four of his five daughters during the event Saturday. For Rogers and his family, being part of the program this year is a big help, he said.
“It’s a huge relief; it’s hard to clothe six kids and feed them,” Rogers said. “This event, it’s good for the entire community.”
Rogers and his wife signed up their friend Jessica Jennings, who said her fiance has been out of work for months.
“We’ve had a really rough year,” Jennings said, getting emotional. “We weren’t going to have a Christmas. It was heartbreaking.”
Her daughter JeynaFaith Rozell is a little more than a year old, and Jennings said she considers this JeynaFaith’s first Christmas.
“Now she’s big enough to open her own presents, I wanted her to have something to open,” Jennings said.
While many parents and grandparents were helping kids pick out new clothes and toys, Ciara Stringer was shopping for diapers, wipes and bottles for her newborn daughter Lakelyn Miller, just over 2 months old.
“It means a lot to us because times are tough,” Stringer said. “The less I have to spend, the more I have to save for her for other things. I greatly appreciate it.”
But it is not just the kids and parents who are glad of the program. Volunteers such as Lt. Shawn Taylor with the MPD also find the event a rewarding experience.
“Coming down here and helping these kids shop and watching the looks on their faces, it’s worth everything we do - and we couldn’t do it without the community,” Taylor said.
MPD and volunteers raised more than $8,000 this year for the Shop With a Cop event. They also planned to smoke 52 turkeys and 9 hams Monday to give out as part of Christmas dinner for area families in need, Gregory said.