Home Local News Rockingham PD provides Christmas shopping spree

Rockingham PD provides Christmas shopping spree

Timothy Johnson, 7, is lifted up by Sgt. Marcus Ricks to grab a Black Panther action figure off the top shelf at Walmart. Photo by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Timothy Johnson was on the hunt for a large Black Panther action figure Friday afternoon at Walmart.

But there was a slight problem with the one he wanted — it was on the top shelf.

It was even too high for Sgt. Marcus Ricks to reach.

So, using a little teamwork, Ricks lifted Johnson up to grab it.

Johnson, 7, is a first grader at L.J. Bell Elementary and was one of several kids paired up with officers from the Rockingham Police Department for the annual Shop with a Cop program.

Patrol officer Jan Owens started the program in 2012 and this marked the 10th year.

“She does everything, she sets the whole thing up,” said Chief George Gillenwater.

Owens said she contacts the counselors and social workers at L.J. Bell Elementary, who provide a list of the children they think are in the most need.

“We take it from there,” Owens said. “We contact the parents and let them know, and set up a time to come on out.”

Gillenwater said this was “our biggest year yet — moneywise.”

“We’ve had a lot of donors, it’s gotten more and more every year,” he said.

A portion of the pot came from the annual Back the Blue motorcycle ride, which raises money for similar programs in Richmond and Scotland counties. This year’s ride netted $14,000.

Each kid had a $350 spending limit, which they used to purchase toys and clothes. Some even picked out a few presents for their siblings.

In addition to the children who were involved with the program, the chief said he pulled a few families aside who were Christmas shopping and “randomly paid for a few presents.”

Gillenwater said the department spent about $4,500 on 11 families this year.

“It’s a lot of fun.”

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.