The Fort Smith Fraternal Order of Police will host its annual event to give Christmas gifts to children Dec. 10, said Kris Deason, organizer and Fort Smith detective.
Cops and Kids at Christmas, formerly Shop with a Cop, is an event where children pick out Christmas gifts at Walmart, 8301 Rogers Ave.
"We try to provide Christmas to kids who would probably go without," Deason said.
Organizers reach out to counselors at 25 elementary school in the area and ask them if there are families in need with children at their schools, Deason said. Sometimes, families approach them.
"I get calls as early as July," Deason said.
With about 200 kids and $50 per kid, it takes $10,000 in donations from businesses and individuals to pay for the gifts, Deason said. In addition to the Fort Smith FOP, several other law enforcement agencies, such as the Hackett Police Department and the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office, participate.
The event also serves as a way to show children the good in police officers, as some of them or their families may have had bad experiences with the police, Deason said.
Walmart works well because the families line up at the garden center, which is also where they cash out when they're finished shopping. This way, they don't crowd the front of the store, Deason said.
Jim Hutchison, the Walmart store manager, has been at the Rogers store for 17 years, he said. Bicycles tend to be a popular item, but things like jackets, gloves and hats sell, too.
"A lot of them — they're not just buying stuff for themselves. They're buying for little siblings," Hutchison said.
Sometimes, the parents let the kids pick out a gift, but then wrap it and put it under the tree so that the kids have something under the tree, Deason said.
The store will have Santa Claus for Cops and Kids at Christmas, Hutchison said, and employees look forward to the event.
"Several associates volunteer to help," Hutchison said.
The Noon Kiwanis Club will be cooking hot dogs, and Yaffe Iron & Metal will provide free coffee and donuts, Deason said.
Cops and Kids at Christmas will begin 8 a.m. Dec 10 and will end about 10:30 a.m., Deason said.