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Shop With A Cop highlight for some kids

Becky Campbell • Updated Dec 4, 2017 at 6:48 PM

An annual Christmas shopping tradition, albeit a young one, received a huge boost last month with a sizable donation from a small Johnson City business.

It’s not the first time, however, that Graphic Disorder partnered with an area Shop With A Cop program.

“They have partnered with us since 2014 and have increased their donation to us every year,” Amber Keller, a lead organizer for SWAG — Support Wives and Girlfriends of the Johnson City Police Department — said recently. The business donated $10,000 to help the group support children in the Johnson City school system who might not otherwise receive Christmas gifts.

“They’re a small local business and they had the heart to do it.”

It also allows those children to buy gift items for their siblings and parents, although Keller said the group works to ensure the kids are covered as well.

“His money will cover every single child to shop at Walmart,” Keller said. “We’re taking 62 kids this year and we take care of them with Christmas morning presents and food boxes for the family as well.”

But it’s not a simple task to take 62 kids shopping at Walmart. That’s where police officers from all over the region play a part in the event. Prior to the shopping trip, the kids are treated to dinner and a Christmas party — this year’s is sponsored by Chick-Fil-A — before the limo ride to Walmart on Browns Mill Road.

The kids are paired up with one or more officers to help them navigate the shopping experience. While the event is sponsored as an extension of the Johnson City Police Department, other departments also participate.

“Last year we had Washington County, Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Elizabethton Police Department, East Tennessee State University Public Safety and security officers from NFS in Erwin.”

Keller said one of the goals, besides ensuring the kids and their families have a good Christmas, is to provide positive interactions with officers.

“The kids are chosen from Johnson City Schools by counselors and the school resource officers. They look for families who could benefit by a positive impact and interaction with officers,” Keller said.

One thing that she and other participants took note of immediately was how the kids aren’t just thinking about themselves.

“What we’ve seen is they go in there and they’re buying clothes and food and things for family members,” Keller said.

The event has grown each year, she said. SWAG began in 2014 by partnering with the Jonesborough Police Department, which still conducts its own event, but then went out on their own in 2015.

“We started with 15 kids … last year we had 50 and we’re up to 62 this year,” she said. The increase emphasizes the need in the community, she said.

Above the shopping spree at Walmart, Amber said the group ensures that kids who ask for a bike for Christmas get one. Those are donated by another local company, she said. SWAG has a yard sale every year to raise money for the event, and with help from Graphic Disorder the group is working to a build a “nest egg,” Keller said.

Monetary donations from the public are also accepted any time of the year. To make a tax-deductible donation, send a check to the city of Johnson City, 601 E. Main Street, Johnson City, TN 37601. Keller said those checks should include Shop With A Cop on the memo line.

In addition to Graphic Disorder, Walmart and Chick-Fil-A, other sponsors for this year’s event include Princeton Self Storage; Target; Krispy Kreme; Food City; Families, Our Specialty medical group; Evans and Evans Realty; Classic Title; Borla Performance Industries; Champion Chevrolet; Kroger; Sam’s Club; Good Vibes Party Bus and Keller Williams Realty.

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