HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith offered an emotional account of a Christmas past, expressing his care and concern for the children of Towns County, on the morning of Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, before the Movers and Shakers at Sundance Grill.
Chief Smith described the annual Shop with a Hero program, designed to provide disadvantaged youth with an opportunity to bond with area first responders while purchasing gifts, in hopes of a happier holiday season.
The program was implemented in 2006 by the late Chief Jimmy Wright, four years prior to Smith becoming an officer with the Hiawassee Police Department.
Originally known as “Shop with a Cop,” there were not enough law enforcement officers available to provide a one-on-one experience. Several children were once assigned to a single officer. Firefighters, EMS personnel, and the Coast Guard auxiliary are now active in the outreach.
Shop with a Hero began in 2015.
The police chief reminisced on a past year’s experience.
Smith was paired with a sixth-grade boy as they traveled with other students and officers to Walmart, each child allotted $200 in spending cash. Smith said the child chose some things for himself, then asked if he could spend the remainder on his parents. The sixth-grader decided on a gold cross necklace for his mother and cologne for his father. The boy proceeded to return the items he planned to purchase for himself, in order to buy gifts for his brother and sister who would otherwise not receive presents that year.
“It was such a moving experience,” Chief Smith told the group. “It made quite an impact on me.”
The now-chief later saw the student on the Hiawassee Square during the city’s Halloween festivities, and he remembered the officer in a kind light. Smith said the child had witnessed him arrest a relative, yet it was the shopping expedition that stood forefront in the boy’s mind. “Sometimes the only experience (children have) is seeing us in a law enforcement capacity,” Smith explained.
Several listeners fought back tears as Chief Smith recalled the memory.
A member of the Movers and Shakers asked the chief how many children participate in the annual program. “Usually about 20 kids, based on how much money we can raise,” Chief Smith replied.
Bill “Scotty” Scott, a group leader, announced he felt guided to “pass the hat” to collect donations for the community program and $944 was accumulated, the largest amount in Movers and Shaker’s history, affording additional children an opportunity to experience a joyful Christmas.
Businesses and residents can participate in the generous outreach via checks made out to Shop with a Hero, delivered in person at Hiawassee City Hall or mailed to:
Hiawassee Police Department – c/o Chief Paul Smith – 50 River Street – Hiawassee, GA 30546
The outing is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.
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