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Area kids shop with cops

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Officer Anderson, of the Haymarket Police Department, looks at some toys with a young girl who participated in the Operation Blue Christmas event at the Kmart in Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Deputy Erin Brogan, of the Winchester Sheriff's Office, takes some toys off of the shelf for a young girl to look at during the Operation Blue Christmas event at the Kmart in Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Sheriff Danny McEathron, of the Warren County Sheriff's Office, places items on the check-out counter after shopping with a young girl during the Operation Blue Christmas event at the Kmart in Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Deputy Walters, of the Rappahannock County Sheriff's Office, holds the shopping bag while Carole Retzlaff, a Kmart employee, fills the bag with items chosen by a young boy during the Operation Blue Christmas event at the Kmart in Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Youngsters, officers team up to purchase Christmas presents

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- It'll be anything but a blue Christmas for the dozens of children who participated in this year's Operation Blue Christmas.

Sponsored by the Front Royal Police Foundation, officers from the town, from the Warren County and Frederick County sheriff's offices, state police, Middletown, Mt. Weather, and even the FBI, among others, took 53 youngsters shopping at K-Mart Saturday so they could buy presents for themselves and family members.

The foundation took over sponsorship of the program from the town's Fraternal Order of Police, said Shelley Mauck, an evidence specialist with Front Royal police. She said the program didn't get started this year till October, and some families had to be turned away, something she hopes is rectified next year.

But, the youngsters having breakfast at the American Legion Post 53 following a few hours of shopping seemed to be having a great time, eating a hot breakfast, playing bingo and getting presents from Santa. The presents from Santa came through Toys for
Tots, Mauck said.

Their parents later got to take homes bags of wrapped presents bought by the children and cops.

Volunteers wrapped the gifts at the county government center before they were brought to the legion, Mauck said.

"The whole point of it, too, is not to only help out the families, it's to create a positive bond between law enforcement officers and the youth," Mauck said. "A lot of these kids don't see the police officers in a positive environment, so when they're out here shopping
one-on-one like this, they really get to see them in a different light."

Warren County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Brogan had participated in the program the previous two years.

"It's nice to see how the community comes together," he said. "I will be back next year. It's a good time."

Frederick County Sheriff's Deputy Jennifer Yost just graduated from the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Middletown last week, and was asked by the academy's office administrator, Patti Baggarly, if she'd like to be a part of Operation Blue Christmas.

"I've got a wonderful brother and sister who were absolutely a pleasure," Yost said. "I made sure they spent every last bit. They had a blast. I will do it every year if I can."
Sharon Horne's grandsons, 6-year-old Brady and 7-year-old Gabe Aumen, as well as her daughter, Andrea Miller, all participated for the first time this year.

"I think it's wonderful, just wonderful," she said. "It means a lot. Words can't describe."
Andrea, 11, got an MP3 player, a video game and silly bands for herself, as well as gifts for her mother and nephews.

"I thought it was cool," she said.


What a great program!

The shop with a cop program is fantastic. It affords needy youngsters and their families to show for one another with the help of a local police officer. It's a great way to expose young people to the more positive side of law enforcement. It helps get the kids off on the right foot. The breakfast allows the opportunity to socialize with others in their situation as well as officers, administrators and program organizers. How can I help next year?

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