MARTINSVILLE – The Harvest Youth Board will help the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Patrick Henry Lodge #73, surpass its goal of serving more children in the Santa, Cops and Kids program this year with a $7,500 grant award.
The Santa, Cops and Kids program is an annual event, now in its 15th year, for children in Martinsville and Henry County to join a law enforcement officer in shopping for Christmas gifts. On average, FOP serves between 40-45 children a year. This grant will enable them to serve more than 75 children this year.
“This grant allows the youth to have a direct interaction with our local law enforcement,” said Adrian Hylton, member of the Harvest Youth Board. “This is an important step in building trust between the two groups, which then leads to an overall safer community. This grant also gives the less fortunate youth within the community an opportunity to enjoy their holiday season by allowing them to choose gifts for themselves. It gave us a great opportunity to support a marvelous cause.”
Children are referred to the program by law enforcement officers, school resource officers and other community partners. Participants must demonstrate a need or be from a low-income household. They also are required to submit an application to verify they are not a participant in other charitable Christmas programs.
“In today’s climate,” said Jacob Tisdale, youth board member, “helping to form a bond and trust between our local law enforcement officers and our youth has never been more important. To form these relationships as well as to give many children a great Christmas experience is very special to the entire (youth) board.” Participating in this program is the most humbling day of the year for police officers, according to Danny Wimmer, president of the FOP Patrick Henry Lodge #73.
“The kids are able to buy for themselves, but they can also get Christmas presents for others,” he said. “There have been many occasions where we actually have to tell the individual to buy at least one thing for themselves. Just to see the excitement on their faces is worth it.”
Wimmer added that many times, children see police officers in a negative aspect because they’ve been called to their homes to deal with a problem.
“This allows that child to see a police officer in a different light – they see them as a human being,” Wimmer said. “A lot of people have said that police officers don’t have hearts, well yes, we do. Sometimes it’s hard to show that. But this is the one day that we can show it, and the officers love doing it.”
W.C. Fowlkes, retired military police and member of FOP, said, “A child never forgets that policeman’s face when they’re walking downtown, or at a ballgame. This experience creates a lasting bond that they can build on.”
The event will take place December 15 at Walmart in Martinsville. There are approximately 346,000 members of FOP nationwide, and locally, 55 members are part of the Patrick Henry Lodge #73. All members are active or retired law enforcement.
“This event is a wonderful opportunity for children and families in our community to develop positive relationships with local law enforcement officers,” said Benjamin D. Peters, patrol lieutenant with the Martinsville Police Department. “Santa, Cops and Kids is an event that our community’s law enforcement officers look forward to every year. Many of us bring our families with us and have a great time experiencing shopping with the children. We are looking forward to a great event this year.”
The Harvest Youth Board considers grant proposals year-round for projects and programs that benefit youth in Martinsville-Henry County. To find out more, visit www.theharvestfoundation.org or call 276-632-3329.