PEMBROKE — Maliya and Latricia Hammonds had some tough choices to make in the toy aisle at the Walmart Supercenter in Pembroke on Saturday.
Fortunately, they had a police officer there to help them.
Deidre Hardin, a detective with the Robeson County Sheriff’s office, helped the girls with a shopping spree as part of the annual Shop with a Cop program. Children were paired with police officers and given gift cards totalling up to $100 to be used at the store.
“It’s a good thing they’re doing,” said Patricia Locklear, the mother of the two girls. “I enjoyed it.”
The Red Springs Police Department held its own program early in the morning, and the Sheriff’s Office followed soon afterward. Approximately 40 children shopped with Red Springs officers, and 69 children shopped with representatives from the Sheriff’s Office.
Donations funded the program for both departments.
“We had one guy come in and donate $1,000,” said Ronnie Patterson, the chief of police in Red Springs. “It’s just different little things that kept it going.”
“We collect monetary donations so that we may provide a joyful and exciting Christmas for kids that are less fortunate,” said Sheriff Kenneth Sealey.
Participants in the program lined up early near the store’s entrances. Children anxiously talked with their parents about what items they wanted to purchase, while the officers helped get them in the holiday spirit.
“We always like to talk to them for a minute like we did this morning, to give them the real meaning of Christmas,” Sealey said. “It’s always a blessing to see so many kids who might not have anything on Christmas morning if we didn’t do this. It’s one of the programs we have that I love most of all.
“Beside my wife and my children and my grandchildren, it makes my Christmas seeing so many kids we’re able to help.”
The children were just as happy to participate in the event. The Hammonds sisters were able to find all of the toys they wanted as they shopped.
Latricia, the youngest of the pair at 4 years old, checked out a variety of dolls and an easy-bake oven over the course of the spree , while 7-year-old Maliya looked at an assortment of gadgets and a light-up tent. The family left Walmart with joyful attitudes and a cart full of toys.
“I’m just happy doing it,” Locklear said. “We were happy and enjoying ourselves. I enjoyed spending time with them, and they enjoyed spending time with us.”
The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center sponsored the event. The detention center adopts a school in the county every year and identifies needy children in that school to participate in the program. This year Oxendine Elementary School in Maxton was selected.
A total of 29 students from the school were able to participate in the Sheriff’s Office’s Shop with a Cop program due to the fundraising efforts of staff members at the detention center.
“It makes my Christmas to be able to come over, but it also makes our deputies’ and office staffs’,” Sealey said. “They come out on their days off to shop with these kids. They always ask what day we’re going to do it. They want to be here.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-416-5165 or on Twitter @Tester_Brandon.