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Officers seek to help children with 'Shop with a Cop' program
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McMinnville Police officer Joseph Butler will be among officers volunteering to participate in Shop with a Cop. The program offers children living with foster and kinship families a Christmas shopping trip with an officer. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

A new program in McMinnville seeks to pair displaced children with law enforcement officers, who will then take the youngsters shopping for Christmas gifts. 

“Shop with a Cop” will take place Saturday, Dec. 11. At least 27 children will be involved. Donations are being sought to provide them with between $100 and $150 to spend on a Christmas shopping spree with either an officer from McMinnville Police Department or a trooper from Tennessee Highway Patrol. 

“For some of these children, their only experience with law enforcement was an officer taking them out of their home,” said Detra Whiles, founder of My Father’s Closet. “That’s an unfortunate situation that likely can give the children a very negative outlook on officers. My hope is to provide them with a positive experience they can associate with officers.”

My Father’s Closet is a nonprofit organization that works to assist children separated from their immediate families. The group provides essential items, such as clothing, shoes and backpacks, to the foster and kinship families who have stepped up to care for the children.

Foster and kinship families apply for assistance from the organization. Likewise, 27 applications were received and approved to Shop with a Cop.

“We don’t place any restrictions on what they buy,” said Whiles. “They can purchase toys or essentials. They can have the items right then or wrap them up and wait until Christmas. The main thing is that they have fun shopping with an officer. The only thing we have asked is that they do not return the items to the store.”

An age range of 5 to 11 years was placed on participation. 

“We do have children that are too young or too old,” said Whiles. “Hopefully, we can give each one of those a $25 gift card. Everyone deserves a brighter Christmas. We want to help make sure they get it.”

Donations and/ or sponsorships are being sought. Payments can be made online by Venmo or by check mailed to My Father’s Closet, 639 North Chancery Street, McMinnville, TN 37110. Gift cards are also being accepted for the children who cannot participate.

More information about My Father’s Closet and the services provided can be found on its Facebook page.