A swarm of children and police officers will file through Target’s toy aisles Friday.
The cops, school resource officers with Gainesville Police, plan to pair up with between 60 and 80 elementary-school students for a $100 holiday shopping spree, although some officers will undoubtedly splurge. GPD has taken kids to shop for holiday gifts for the past five years.
“Frequently, the kids will go over the $100 allotment, and you’ll see officers reaching into their own pocket to help out,” said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias.
The first spree will take place Friday, and the second, at a Wal-Mart, will take place Dec. 16.
The officers will pick the kids up from school, take them to breakfast and then go shopping.
GPD’s annual Heroes and Helpers shopping sprees are just some of the ways local law enforcement is embracing the holiday spirit.
The department will also participate in Silver Santa, where officers act as gift-bearing Secret Santas for about 40 elderly residents who don’t have family in the area, Tobias said.
Tobias said he’s working on getting his senior new wheels for his wheelchair.
“I had to do a little homework to figure out what he was looking for,” he said. “We’re constantly out in the community, but this is a special time of year when we’re able to give a little bit more.”
Tobias said officers volunteer for both events, and there’s often a wait list to participate. The email asking for officers to sign up is filled hours after it’s sent out.
Last week, a group of Alachua County Sheriff’s Office employees took on the role of Santa’s elves, delivering gifts to 58 children, ranging from newborns to teens, who had been removed from neglectful or abusive homes.
The employees were provided with wish lists from the children, which helped them get the perfect gift. The number of children helped increased by 20 kids from last year. The most popular items were electronics, sporting equipment and clothing, said Art Forgey, ACSO’s public information officer.
“It’s very rewarding to know simple gestures could make a difference,” Forgey said.
Katy Arnold, an executive assistant for the sheriff’s office, sponsored three children who wished for gifts ranging from scrapbooking materials to basketballs.
“My husband and I fostered two children and have been on the receiving end of getting gifts from anonymous donors,” Arnold said. “We decided to give back.”
Around the sheriff’s office, employees will take part in a door-decorating contest, a chili cook-off and a food drive, all of which aim to get ACSO in the giving spirit, Forgey said.
“We are a very giving community,” he said.
In Gainesville, police officers and sheriff’s deputies are embracing the holiday season by donating their time — and toys — to the community. On Friday, Gainesville Police officers will take elementary-school children on a shopping spree to Target as a part of its annual Heroes and Helpers event. Last week, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office handed out gifts to children who had been taken from abusive or neglectful homes.