Officers bring Christmas to the masses
For the second year in a row, Target joined forces with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 83 in hosting ‘Santa with a Badge’ at the Martinsburg location. More than 30 officers and associate members of the FOP lodge were on hand to escort nearly 125 children through the aisles, helping them find their favorite Christmas presents.
Tom Hansen, FOP member and retired lieutenant from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, once again helped coordinate the event. Each of the children, who were selected based on referrals from schools, churches, neighbors and others who knew of their need, were allowed to spend $75 on items of their choice. Each child was escorted by an officer to help them stay on budget and find just the right gifts.
Children and their family members were lined up outside of the store that opened an hour early Saturday morning just so they could shop. They were greeted by the Target dog mascot as well as Jefferson County Parks and Recreation’s ‘Chippy’ who joined in the festivities.
Hansen shared that he and his wife, Jenny, have participated for the past 16 years.
“It fills my heart every time we come here,” Hansen said of the shopping experience.
Hanson shared that the funds for the Santa with a Badge project come from solicitations made on behalf of the FOP Lodge. While lodge members are not allowed to solicit, they do employ a solicitation company that does a telephone request, first to area businesses and then private individuals.
Charlie, a team leader at Target involved in Saturday’s event, shared that this is the second year the Martinsburg store has participated in the local event. He said that there were probably 10-12 Target employees who volunteered to come in early to help get the store ready for the children’s arrival and be on hand before regular store hours.
Ranson Police Department’s Robbie Roberts said that he has been volunteering with the program for about 26 years.
“I just love it,” he said. “The kids make it worth it,” he continued as he headed to the toy section with a family of three children. Two of that group, Roberts said, knew exactly what they wanted, but one little girl changed her mind over and over again before finally settling on just the right gift.
Hansen said that officers came from Jefferson and Berkeley counties, Martinsburg City, Ranson, Charles Town and the Reserves, among others.
“The generosity of businesses and the community giving helps us to do this,” Hansen said.
In addition to their shopping sprees, children were treated to a visit with Santa and refreshments provided by Target employees.
One special volunteer greeted the children and their family members at check in. Barbara Willard is a senior citizen and resident of Elmcroft of Martinsburg. According to Elmcroft’s Healthy lifestyles Director Nicole Van Hall, it was Willard’s wish to come be a greeter at the Santa with a Badge event.
Van Hall explained that Elmcroft sponsors a ‘Second Wind Dream’ program where seniors at their facility can experience a wish.
“It’s sort of like ‘Make a Wish’ for seniors,” Van Hall said.
“Target and the FOP let Barbara be a part today as an official Target greeter,” Van Hall said.
Willard simply wanted to get out and meet people, she said.
“Just seeing the expressions on these children’s faces is wonderful,” Willard said. “It gets everyone in the holiday spirit.”