Santa comes with a badge
Toni Milbourne For the Chronicle
Once again this holiday season, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 83 and Target in Martinsburg joined forces to provide children in the community with some Christmas cheer.
Dubbed “Santa with a Badge,” the program sees more than 20 officers and associate members of the FOP lodge come out to escort approximately 125 children through the store, allowing them to select their favorite Christmas gifts.
Each of the children, who were selected using established criteria and from referrals from schools, churches and other parties, were given $75 to spend and a police escort to help them do it. It was typical to see a dash to the toy aisles where the officers, with notepad in hand, recorded the item and its cost on a tally sheet to make sure each child took full advantage of the amount allotted.
Most officers had families with multiple children and faced the challenge of keeping up with each child’s item list. But it was smiles all around despite the children’s uncertainty when it came to what item to select.
In addition to the welcome the families received from the officers and Target employees, they were greeted by Bullseye, the Target dog mascot, and the Chick-Fil-A cow, who has made a stop at this event part of his holiday tradition. Chick-Fil-A partnered again this year with the event to provide the children with breakfast when they completed their shopping.
FOP President Chuck Stevens said the event is a favorite among many of the officers who come back year after year to participate.
“It’s a lot of fun to see these kids get excited about the presents they’re selecting,” he said.
Tom Hansen, an FOP member and retired officer from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, was once again on hand with his wife, Jenny, to escort children through the store. The event is a heartwarming tradition the couple enjoys each year.
Officers come to participate from Jefferson and Berkeley counties, Martinsburg City, Ranson, Charles Town, Shepherd University and the Reserve units. They take pride in doing something for the children of the community.
Ranson officer Robbie Roberts has participated in the shopping spree for about 28 years and looks forward to it every December.
“I just love it,” he said as he juggled toys and other items for a family of three under his watch. Never missing a beat, he steered his shopping cart expertly around another officer heading for the newest toy in the next aisle.
Funds for the event have, in the past, been secured through the FOP’s annual solicitation fund drive. This year, the organization didn’t hold the telephone drive, so they’re seeking donations to ensure that the Santa with a Badge program for next year can go on as planned. The money allotted to each child quickly adds up, but the FOP sees this event as necessary and important. Stevens asked that individuals who care to donate to the FOP send donations directly to FOP/Morgan-Berkeley-Jefferson Lodge 83, P.O. Box 2694 Martinsburg, WV 25402.