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Police share back-to-school shopping spree with kids

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Officer Bruce Groccia, right, helps second grader Sanya Howell try on shoes during the Shop with a Cop event at JC Penny on August 18, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Thanks to some of Greenville’s men and women in uniform, about 30 young students have their own new school uniforms for the upcoming year.

On Saturday morning, the Greenville Noon Rotary club hosted its 11th annual “Shop with a Cop” at the J.C. Penney at the Greenville Mall. Ten Greenville Police Department officers and a crowd of Rotarian volunteers guided the children through a shopping spree to buy school-approved clothing, including everything from new shoes to shirts, pants and coats. 

The budget for this year’s event was about $5,000, according to the club’s treasurer John Person. Each child was given about $133 to spend in the store, as well as a backpack full of school supplies. The school supplies were donated by the Goodwill Foundation. 

According to Grayson Rattew, community service director for the club, sales prices negotiated with Penny’s in conjunction with other provided coupons allowed the children to shop at about 60 percent off, drastically increasing their purchasing power. 

She said the event was quintessential to the club’s overall goals and priorities, including two of its six strategic causes: saving mothers and children and promoting education. 

“One of the things about Rotary is that we’re a community organization, so anytime we can we get out and partner with the community and show what Rotary is about,” she said. “We want people to know that Rotary is about service over self and get the word out and get people involved.”

The children in the event were selected by officers who run the Police Athletic League, a recreational program for the city’s youngsters. In addition to clothing, food was provided from Krispy Kreme and Chic-fil-A. 

Before the event began, the cops or rotarians assisting the kids were provided with Pitt County Schools’ uniform policy, as well as a sheet from the children’s parents detailing their sizes and specific needs.

One of the officers involved in the event, Sgt. Augie Etherbridge, said making sure kids had adequate clothing and supplies for school was more than just a basic need, it was a means to making them comfortable and welcomed into their own school community. 

“A big thing with certain ages like this is fitting in with everybody else,” he said. “I grew up with hand-me-down type clothes; I know how it is; it’s a good opportunity for these kids to get the clothes and shoes they need and have an equal opportunity in school that they need.”

Sgt. Richie Williams said the event is also important for creating connections with law enforcement. 

“Kids are going back to school, and they need school supplies,” he said. “But from a police perspective, it allows us to come out and partner with the kids and see us in a different light — not just in an enforcement role but in one doing service for them. It humanizes us instead of them just seeing just locking people up.” 

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. 

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