By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- A special program run by the Fort Pierce Police Department and the Fort Pierce Police Athletic League brings joy to children every holiday season, and it returned once again this year.
This year, Shop with a Cop took place on Dec. 8 at the Walmart store in Fort Pierce. Approximately 45 children in the community met with officers, who helped them select their gifts.
"We are seeing a need in our community for these families, and it is something that our employees really enjoy," said Chief R. Sean Baldwin of the Fort Pierce Police Department.
"Every year I get to see the joy on the faces of the children as they select their gifts, and our employees have a lot of fun, too."
The program has been in the community since 2005, when Walmart first awarded the police department a grant to start the program. Since then, more than 200 children have participated in the annual event. It is helped with donations from the community, as well.
"Walmart has been fantastic to us with this," said public information officer Sgt. Dennis McWilliams. "We've also had people see what we're doing and been willing to help. Last year, we had an anonymous donation of $1,000 to the program."
The families can only participate one time in the program and are chosen by police department employees.
"Our officers spend a lot of time in the field, and they see first-hand the families in need," said Sgt. McWilliams. "They need the help, and we are happy to provide the service."