Local law enforcement officers take kids school shopping

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By Calen McKinney



She can't decide between the green shoes and the pink ones that sparkle. And he is stuck between the dark blue shirt and a yellow one.

With a big smile, she picks the sparkly pink shoes and he decides to get both the yellow and blue shirts.

They head to the checkout and watch as their new school clothes are folded and placed into bags.

As they leave, they say "thank you" to their new law enforcement friends and give them a hug goodbye.

Thirty-two children will head to school tomorrow in style, thanks to the nearly 40 members of Central Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #22, which has members in Taylor and surrounding counties.

FOP members come from all areas of law enforcement, from court security officers to probation and parole staff to detectives and sheriff's deputies.

The FOP members took the children, who attend Campbellsville and Taylor County schools, shopping last Thursday at Walmart.

FOP members raised $5,000 to go toward purchasing clothing and school supplies for the children.

Each child picked out $100 in clothing and received a bag of $50 worth of new school supplies.

FOP President Rick Benningfield said his group begins planning the shopping trips and soliciting money from local businesses, civic groups and churches in January.

"Some individuals gave, too," Benningfield said.

One FOP member donated $1,000 to the effort.

He said the shopping program began about 15 years ago. While many groups help children around the holiday season, the FOP decided that children in the community also need help around back-to-school time.

"That's when they need it," Benningfield said. "Now it's even more of a need than it was."

He said many parents are unemployed and don't have the money to purchase clothing and new school supplies come time for children to head back to the classroom.

The FOP shopping program stopped a few years after it began, but it was started again about four years ago, Benningfield said.

"We're going to try to continue it every year," he said.

Benningfield said the FOP group works with local family resource centers to reach the children school officials have identified as needing help.

But there is also another reason the FOP wants to help children.

"To change the kids' opinion of cops," Benningfield said. "To make sure they understand we're not just the bad guys."

He said children might believe law enforcement officers are only involved when something is wrong or someone has committed a crime. The FOP wants to change that.

"We want them to see law enforcement in a different light," he said. "It's a good program. We want to continue to offer it."

Benningfield said the children receive all the money FOP members raise. He said seeing the children pick out their new clothes, hearing them say "thank you" and seeing them hug the officers is plenty of thanks for the work put into the program.

Benningfield said he thanks his FOP members for their work and the businesses and groups who donated to the effort.