Realtors from Century 21 The Hunter Group raised money and sent four Statesboro Police Department officers on a Christmas shopping trip through the Walmart Supercenter with three siblings, ages 12–15, from one local family.
Hazel Hendrix, associate broker at The Hunter Group, coordinated the “Shop with a Cop” event with Chief of Police Mike Broadhead. The Police Department called on someone with the Bulloch County Schools to identify a family with children who wanted new bicycles.
“We want to affect middle school and high school kids. We want them to bond with our police officers,” Hendrix said. “It’s at least threefold. One is we wanted to give back to the community. We also wanted to spotlight our policemen and the good deeds they do, and then we wanted to help the kids in the community.”
Internet searches reveal that various police agencies, companies and nonprofit organizations around the country host “Shop with Cops” or “Shop with a Cop” programs, but there does not appear to be a national organization. The local Century 21 agents did not work with any other sponsoring group.
Instead, Hendrix, who liked what she had heard about some of the projects in other communities, brought the idea to her colleagues and to Broadhead. The real estate agents had been looking for a new community service project for several years, and the specific planning for Shop with a Cop took about three months, Hendrix said.
“It’s not just a Christmas project, but we wanted to start it by the end of the year,” she said.
All nine agents with the firm contributed, raising $900 this year.
Then three Century 21 The Hunter Group agents — Hendrix, Ronald Love and Craig Hunter — met police officers and the chosen children Tuesday at Walmart.
Broadhead showed up with four other uniformed SPD officers, namely Lt. Tony Gore; Advanced Patrol Officer Justin Gawthrop, who is also the resource officer assigned to Statesboro High School; Advanced Patrol Officer Chris DeLoach; and Officer Kayshara Carter.
The Realtors had been concerned how many officers would want to participate. But Broadhead said he turned away some volunteers from within the department, taking only the first four so as not to overwhelm the family.
“It was really nice for me,” Broadhead said. “It was gratifying to see that the officers are really getting involved in this kind of stuff, that they really want to be involved.”
He took over as Statesboro’s police chief in April, declaring an emphasis on the Police Department being an integral part of the community. But real estate agents took the lead in this project, with the police simply welcoming the opportunity, he said.
Broadhead left Lt. Gore and the three other officers to do the actual shopping. The youth they shopped with were Statesboro High School students Elijah Hulsey and Tyler Hulsey and their sister, Langston Chapel Middle School student Leanna Hulsey.
“One of the things that we insisted on was that they buy something for their mother. We wanted to throw family in there too,” Hendrix said. “So what they did is, each child went with a policeman and a Realtor, and we went in a store and we all went different ways.”
Other shoppers approached the Shop with a Cop participants to ask what they were doing and express approval.
In the checkout line, where a group with shopping carts, three bicycles and several officers in uniform was hard not to notice, a cashier asked about the project. Another customer, overhearing the answer, then donated her last $10 cash, commenting that she wished she had more to give, Hendrix said.
Elijah, Tyler and Leanna left with a new bicycle each. Two of the children got cellphones, and one chose a game for a game system. The group also shopped for some food items for a Christmas snack tray and something the family could bake together, as well as gifts Elijah, Tyler and Leanna each selected for their mother.
“I’m so appreciative of everything that they did,” said Nichole Hulsey, a self-employed, single mother with four children. The eldest, Nicholas, is out of school and wasn’t part of the shopping trip.
Her family still would have had a nice Christmas, but she probably wouldn’t have been able to do all of these things on her own, Hulsey said.
Overall, she said, she sees the project as a positive one for the community because it has children interact with police officers “and see there are some good cops out there that really care.”
“The media … they just always show the bad stuff, and you know, kids are typically scared of police, or intimidated,” Hulsey said. “I thought it was a great experience to show that they cared and they were people just like us.”
The Century 21 agents hope to make this a yearly project, not necessarily limited to the Christmas season, Hendrix said. They hope to raise more money to fund Shop with a Cop opportunities for people with various needs through the year or for individual children from more than one family during the holidays.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.