Christmas is a fun and exciting time of the year – except when it’s not. And it’s not for those families not in a position to experience some of the joys of the season. While Christmas is not only about the giving and receiving of gifts, for children that’s a large part of it. So for those families struggling financially, Christmas can be a very stressful time. That’s when those who have sworn to serve and protect get to expand those duties, just a little – and that’s how Monroe’s public safety officials got to spread a little cheer to those in need this week.
The annual Shop with a Hero took place at Walmart in Monroe on Thursday with the Christmas wishes of some local children being fulfilled with a little help from members of Monroe Police Department, Monroe Fire Department, Walmart and some other companies and private citizens who wanted to get in on the action. There were police cars and fire engines parked outside for the children to see and even a med evac helicopter landed in the parking lot to help make the experience more memorable. And what would Christmas shopping be without running into Santa?
“We got about 30 names from F.I.S.H. (Faith in Serving Humanity) and another eight contacted us and were added,” said Marsha Queen, assistant to Monroe Public Safety Director Keith Glass. “We get donations from businesses, some private individuals and some people come up and donate while we’re here.”
Each child gets $100 to spend on his or herself while shopping with a local public safety official.
“Some of them want to buy for someone else, maybe a brother or sister or their parents, and we let them do that,” Queen said. “But then we make sure we take note of the amount and let them go back and buy something else for that value – because of their thoughtfulness.”
“We had 38 on the list, but by the end of the day we would probably have had more like 60 children shop,” Glass said. “We always have more.”
Some of the children shopping with their family who may not have known about it are sometimes brought in on the spot – and standing there to help out with additional donations was Joe Paradise of Solid Security Services. He would step up and get the bill for some of the children as they came up to pay for the purchases. This was his fourth year and his reason for doing it – he wants to spread some of his own blessings around.
“I’m blessed and so I in return feel the need to bless – and that’s something I teach my children too,” Paradise said, adding his four daughters were out in the store helping guide the children through their shopping. “It’s just something we like to do.”
At the end of the day, the children were able to shop for some gifts to put under the Christmas tree while spending some quality time with a hero – something to help make 2016 a Christmas they will remember.
And for the members of public safety, the Shop with the Hero program is one that makes every Christmas one to remember. The smiles on their faces were often even bigger than the children for whom they were shopping.
“It’s a humbling experience, that’s for sure,” said Monroe Assistant Police Chief RV Watts.